Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Town council discusses possible improvements to bus loading zone at St. Michael's

Toni Lucas

The issue of a dedicated bus loading zone at St. Michael's School was discussed during the regular meeting of Pincher Creek Town Council on February 23.   The Holy Spirit Catholic School Board (HSCSB) has made a formal request for assistance funding towards off-street school bus parking at St. Michael's School. Concerned citizens approached Town Council about snow removal and student safety in January 2013.  The process has continued to include identifying issues around traffic, and safety for students and drivers in the area. More recently this issue was brought foreword to council on January  12 and January  26 of this year.  Each time, after discussion, the decision was to obtain more information, which happened again at this meeting.

In a letter dated December 3, 2014, HSCSB indicated that they would like to have assistance from the Town of Pincher Creek toward funding an improved bus loading zone, to be implemented during the St. Michael's School modernization project, which is scheduled to begin in July 2015 and be completed by July 2017. The letter indicated that they estimate the cost of the changes to the school bus parking to be $118,000. The changes are intended to help with traffic flow and student and driver safety.

The Town of Pincher Creek has previously helped with the associated costs of setting up a bus loading zone at Canyon School and Matthew Halton School. The total funding amount provided by the Town of Pincher Creek for the Canyon School bus turn out came to $46,785.38 including GST. This included contracted services,  asphalt works, curb and gutter implementation.

 Councillor Doug Thornton expressed concern about the cost of moving power poles, moving fences, and streetlight costs for the project at St. Michael's School.  "The St. Michael's School is entitled to the same treatment, and I don't have a problem with that," said Councillor Doug Thornton. "But I am afraid that the costs of moving those poles, even at $3,500 apiece, what is in excess of moving those poles will go onto the taxes, or expenses accrued by the rest of the town."

"My belief is that our citizens are already paying their school taxes and shouldn't be asked to pay more for one of the schools that we have in town."  Thornton said that he believed that there were other areas where a loading zone could be situated without having to move power poles.  Administration indicated there should only be one pole that has to be moved, instead of the originally projected 6 poles.

Councillor Lorne Jackson said that Canyon School did pay for certain aspects of their bus loading zone themselves, mentioning the moving of the fence there.   "They didn't expect the Town to pay for that, so there is something of a precedent."

Thornton read from information included in the package gathered by administration. "No other charges occur from the new service, but once the customer, the Town of Pincher Creek requests a connect to the service  through their preferred retailer, then on that monthly electric bill  there will be a distribution-transmission charge, plus applicable local access fee, municipal franchise fees, with the descriptors below. Any associated costs  will be dispersed through the billing process, and not up front charges." Thornton said, "Well, the billing process is something that the Town will be responsible to pay going forward."  To address what he had just read Thornton said, "Whatever those charges are are going to be laid out on the rest of the citizens of the town, and I'm concerned about that."  He later said "I would like to know what that is going to be."

Councillor Mark Barber said "In reality, this project has to move forward, anyways, because it is the safety of the students that's relevant."

Mayor Don Anderberg said "The only piece of this scope of work that hasn't been settled was the power pole issue, because we didn't know how much it was going to be.   So now we know how much it is going to be." He talked about how the wording of the item Thornton had referenced did allow for some ambiguity.  "I don't think that is the case, I think it is just the ongoing charge of the street light," said Anderberg, who added that it was left unclear to him as well and that he would like to know how this billing process and fee will be structured.  Council directed administration to get clarification on these issues from Fortis for the next regular meeting of  council on March 9.  "There is an extra charge on that pole that has to be moved, we just want to make sure we know what that number is. As far as the rest of it is concerned, we have a budget in place," said Mayor Anderberg.

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