Two Okotoks households who lost their homes to a recent fire are asking the town for tax relief.
At their latest meeting, town council was presented letters from Graham and Wendy Coulter, as well as Bruce MacDonald and Karon Friesen requesting cancellation of their upcoming property taxes, given their circumstances.
Both of their homes in Sheep River Cove were destroyed in a fire on March 15.
Typically, a municipality would have 'first charge' on insurance proceeds to cover those payments, but the town had received correspondence from the insurance company that indicated they don't intend to pay the tax to the town.
Given the circumstances, council voted in favour of a recommendation from administration to postpone the decision until their next meeting on April 25.
Speaking during the meeting, Mayor Tanya Thorn said it's just a very unique scenario that council shouldn't rush their decision on.
"What's happening right now is very different than any other fire we've dealt with in our community, so we are waiting to understand what that means to us from a legal perspective with that and we don't have that information yet."
Town administration has reached out to other municipalities and will be seeking legal opinion before moving ahead.
The homeowners requested council to treat the matter with urgency, though council reasoned that since 2022 tax bills won't be sent until late May or early June, they'd have ample time to come up with a resolution.
The town's Chief Financial Officer Ralph Ettenhauer said the situation is unlike anything he's encountered.
"What we're doing is basically saying that council has the option today to make a decision or to defer a decision until we get more information and come back to you at the end of the months with the roles, responsibilities, and the process for these types of situations since this is fairly unique to situations that have occurred since I've been here. This is the first opportunity I've had to work with this particular issue."
Along with the request for tax relief, the Coulters' letter expressed disappointment at the town's response to their requests for help following the fire.
They reported being passed around to a few different town departments and having trouble reaching town staff.
"Both our neighbour and us experienced the same response from town staff. It is our hope when traumatic events such as this occur, that public facing employees be aware that under these stressful times their actions or lack thereof have an impact, leaving us feeling re-victimized. A simple 'let me check and get back to you' with a call-back confirming things are looked after, or what to do next, would have been a significantly better response."