Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pincher Creek councils notes for early January 2017

Town passes cemetery bylaw
Town Bylaw Officer appointment
Allied Arts renovations update
MD to donate $500 to Oldman Watershed Council
Highway 3 Committee update
Electric vehicles charging network update
Citizen writes to Town about free swimming concerns
MD approves logging permit
Beaver Mines notes
Southfork Hill drainage project receives $170,242 grant
Bovine tuberculosis update
AlbertaSW re-elects exective
MD tables solar power amendment bylaw

Town passes cemetery bylaw

New columbarium at Fairview Cemetery (Town of Pincher Creek photos)
On January 9 Town council passed a bylaw which updates Fairview Cemetery fees, including a new fee schedule for niches in the columbarium recently installed there, and "incorporating amendments made in 2013 regarding the size requirements of monuments, tombstones, and markers. According to the Town's calculations, "Niche pricing is such that it will repay the cost of the columbarium once the niche is 100% full."

Town Bylaw Officer appointment

At their January 9 meeting council for the Town of Pincher Creek appointed former Community Peace Officer Gordon Pitt to the position of Bylaw Enforcement Officer. Town CAO Laurie Wilgosh said "We intend to add other duties to the Bylaw position, In particular, Gord will also be our safety officer for the health and safety program for the Town. It is a change that allows him to oversee the bylaw management, and health and safety for the town." Mayor Don Anderberg "The designations have changed, and I think everybody is pretty happy with that."

Allied Arts renovations update

At their January 9, 2017 meeting Town council accepted as information a December 12 delegation by Yvan Lebel on behalf of the Allied Arts Council (AAC). As reported here last month, Lebel discussed potential renovations upstairs at the Lebel Mansion, including an elevator, and a power and telecom project to integrate wifi and solar power in the building. Lebel's report to council was accepted as information. Mayor Don Anderberg said "It looks like they have a plan for most of the things they are asking for. We actually budgeted some money to help with the flooring upstairs in the Lebel." The elevator project is included in the Town's 2018 capital budget, with additional (non-Town) grants required to offset some of the costs.

MD to donate $500 to Oldman Watershed Council
Water Charter request received as information

On December 6, 2016 council for the MD of Pincher Creek heard a presentation by Oldman Watershed Council Executive Director Shannon Frank.  Among other things, Frank asked council to consider a funding request of 35 cents per capita, instead of a lump sum grant as in past years.  In 2016 the MD donated $250.  The per capita suggestion would have raised that amount to approximately $1100.  After some discussion at their January 10 meeting council instead passed a motion by councillor Fred Schoening to donate $500 out of the MD's Grants to Groups and Organizations fund.  Additionally, the Agricultural Services board is donating $250 to OWC toward a February meet and greet in Twin Butte.

MD council was also asked to consider signing the Southern Alberta Water Charter, committing them "to the better management and health of the Oldman" through projects of their own choosing.  A ground water initiative project was explained as a possible initiative that the MD could support and promote. Councillor Quentin Stevick said he was hesitant to sign charters, and councillor Fred Schoening agreed, saying the MD already hosts water related workshops and includes Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) dams to provide water supplies of a consistent quality for those who live alongside the MD's waterways, providing part of the MD's current commitment to watershed issues. Councillor Terry Yagos agreed, saying ranchers in the MD already do things to protect the streams and waterways. Reeve Hammond argued in favour of signing the charter.  The charter request was ultimately received as information.

Highway 3 Committee update

At the January 9 meet of Town Council Mayor Don Anderberg said he attended a meeting of the Highway 3 Committee in Lethbridge on Friday January 6, and a representative from the Department of Transportation was at the meeting.

"This year, they're going to (do) a functional study on the twinning of Highway 3 for two different sections of the highway." said Anderberg, saying one section was from Blairmore to Pincher Creek (44.3 kilometres according to Google Maps) and the second from Taber to Burdett (46.7 kilometres). Anderberg said the impression he got from the meeting was that the highest priority area is in the Crowsnest Pass area.

There was a study done in 2001-2002 regarding the economic impacts of Highway 3 to southern Alberta.

"The Minister of Transportation gave us a grant last fall, $10,000 to help facilitate bringing that study up to date.  We awarded the contract to a professor from the University of Lethbridge."  The professor was at the meeting.  "It sounds like it will be an excellent report. The timeline is in March."

Anderberg said the committee expects there are to be announcements regarding Highway 3 coming from the Department of Transportation later this year.

Electric vehicles charging network update

According to the minutes of AlbertaSW'a December meeting, AlbertaSW, SouthGrow, City of Calgary, Calgary Regional Partnership, with support from the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA), have submitted a joint application  to Natural Resources Canada  (NRCan) for funding to plan and deploy an Electric Vehicle  Charging Stations Network in our regions. "City of Medicine Hat is now also part of the conversation, so information is being shared across southern Alberta. We have also connected with Electric Mobility Canada, a national organization headquartered in Montreal, dedicated to promoting electric vehicle transportation."

Citizen writes to Town about free swimming concerns

According to the Town's distribution list of their January 9 meeting, one person wrote to the Town of Pincher Creek regarding their Canada 150 initiative of offering free admittance for a number of activities at the pool. Councillor Lorne Jackson said the person who wrote asked why not offer free opportunities for all sports facilities, or a rebate of $150/capita. "I crunched some numbers there, and the suspension of the pool admission charge amounts to $13.51 per capita to Pincher Creek residents, where his initiative would amount to $555,000 which I don't think would be very feasible." Jackson said some of the reasons they chose the pool facility were that "It would capture the widest demographic possible," and it would promote exercise and community, while having little restriction on age, gender, or physical ability. That there is almost no equipment involved with swimming, except the outfit, figured into council's discussion of the matter.

MD approves logging permit

At their January 10 meeting council for the MD of Pincher Creek approved a recommendation by Director of Operations Leo Reedyk to approve a logging permit for a number of segments of road right-of-way in the Willow Valley area to minimize the future impact of trees falling on fencing. The landowner told Reedyk he grazes cattle on the land and is planning to replace the fences. The right of way is Crown land, so any revenue from the harvesting would go to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

During council's deliberations on the subject councillor Fred Schoening said he would like to see a synopsis of what is harvested. Reedyk said that would be possible to get from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Councillor Quentin Stevick commended the landowners, who were in attendance, for harvesting the trees instead of wasting them.

Beaver Mines notes

At their January 10 meeting council for the MD of Pincher Creek discussed two emails from the Beaver Mines Community Association, the most recent January email "requesting a written status report on the the Beaver Mines Water and Sewer Project be sent to all ratepayers in the hamlet." A December 2016 email asked for "confirmation that the project has been approved and when that resolution was passed", "a status report indicating what work is currently underway, when it will be completed and other key milestones/timelines for 2017", "other critical information shared at the open house", "a commitment to provide regular status reports to all hamlet ratepayers as planning proceeds and an indication of when we might hear from you next, and "any other plans the MD has for keeping ratepayers up to date going forward and where people can go to get more information".

Reeve Brian Hammond queried how council could best get information about the project to the public.  Councillor Garry Marchuk's division included Beaver Mines.  He said an announcement would answer a lot of questions and take heat off of the council.  CAO Wendy Kay said that the information presented at a recent open house is all the information currently available.  During reports councillor Marchuk said the biggest concern of Beaver Mines residents was to know what the project's route through the community will be. 

Council also received several citizen letters on the subject.  

One resident wrote "I'm a current land owner in the Hamlet of Beaver Mines. I know there has been talk of putting in town water and sewer facilities. I was just curious where this is at? As you can imagine a lot hinges on this whether it be building or holding onto the land as an investment.  Any insight you might have would be greatly appreciated."  He followed that up with another letter saying "Unfortunately,  I was unable to attend the round table meeting before Christmas in regards to the water and sewer project. I was just wondering how it turned out?  If it's any consolation, I'm all for it."  Director of Development and Community Services Roland Milligan (to whom the letters were addressed) responded "We are definitely looking into the project.  We have spent some money on feasibility and preliminary design.  We continue to work toward the project but Council has not made a final decision on proceeding.  This could happen within the next few months."

Another resident wrote to councillor Garry Marchuk, saying in part "World wide, the one most critical element needed for a strong healthy community is clean safe water. This should go without saying in Canada, but apparently this is not necessarily the case.  I am fortunate.  Our property is located higher up on the slope and our private water system has been given a clean bill of health since we took ownership of the property. Also, we converted our sewage system to a full contained storage system. Therefore, our property is not contributing to the contaminated fresh water issues in Beaver Mines. All of this did not happen without considerable expense but with no other alternative, the expenses were necessary.  I do  not  necessarily have to support the Beaver Mines Water and Wastewater Project as my home is functioning just fine without it.  However,  I do choose to support the project because it is my strong belief that this community as a whole will be a healthier, better place to live with the Project. I am hoping that the community overall recognizes the value of such an important project and is able to put its full support behind the MD of Pincher Creek."

Council also decided at their January 10 meeting to look into whether internet cable could be routed to Beaver Mines using the same trench as the water/sewer project.

Southfork Hill drainage project receives $170,242 grant

At their January 10 meeting council from the MD of Pincher Creek received as information a letter from Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee addressed to Reeve Brian Hammond. The letter announced a grant of $170,242 from the Gas Tax Fund (GTF) for the MD's Southfork Hill Drainage Improvements project.

Bovine tuberculosis update

In a letter received December 19, 2016, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier responded to a letter by Reeve Brian Hammond on behalf of council for the MD of Pincher Creek expressing a desire for more information about the recent bovine tuberculosis outbreak in western Canada.

Minister Carlier's letter:

"Thank you for your November 16, 2016, letter regarding the ongoing Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) investigation into a case of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in southern Alberta. I appreciate your recognition of the support that the province has been providing. We certainly recognize that this is a very difficult time for affected producers, and as a result, the provincial government has been highly engaged in this incident from the very early days, working in a number of areas to support the investigation and producer needs. We have engaged in discussions at many levels, including with my federal counterpart, regarding the financial and logistical challenges facing affected producers and the need for ongoing communication.

A team of provincial staff has been working on a proposal for AgriRecovery, through which the Government of Alberta and the federal government would jointly provide financial assistance for extraordinary costs associated with this incident. To ensure this program meets the needs of the affected producers, we also arranged a meeting with affected producers to hear additional details regarding the challenges being faced. This meeting included representatives from CFIA, Alberta Health, and Alberta Environment and Parks, and allowed for some updates on the investigation and an opportunity to answer questions.

In addition to AgriRecovery, staff have investigated other business risk management tools available to producers facing immediate cash flow problems, and assembled a document that is available on the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation website.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has also provided veterinary staff to work with the CFIA in their investigation, providing assistance on animal movement tracing and disease risk assessment. We have also had staff from our water team identifying options to address water shortages faced by producers who have been unable to market their animals, and we have maintained close contact with cattle industry organizations and provided them with technical support.

Although the primary focus of the investigation is currently on the livestock, the CFIA and Alberta Environment and Parks have had preliminary discussions regarding surveillance, and we have worked with Alberta Environment and Parks to implement education and awareness sessions for hunters, and passive surveillance efforts this winter. We have also been working with our colleagues in Health to address any concerns that may be out there in regards to the safety of Alberta beef, and to ensure the physical and mental health of affected producers." 

AlbertaSW re-elects exective

At their December 7, 2016 meeting, the AlbertaSW board re-elected their  current executive to serve another year:
Chair, Lloyd Kearl, Cardston County
Vice-Chair, Barney Reeves, Waterton Lakes
Secretary-Treasurer Jordan Koch, Glenwood
Designated Signing Authority - Garry Marchuk, MD Pincher Creek

Board Representatives:
Lloyd Kearl, Cardston County
Barney Reeves, Waterton Lakes
Jordan Koch, Glenwood
Bill Peavoy, Cardston
Beryl West, Nanton
Brent Peyter, Fort Macleod
Garry Marchuk, MD Pincher Creek
Lome Jackson, Pincher Creek
Dennis Gillespie, Stavely
Warren Mickels, Cowley
Shelley Ford, Claresholm
John Connor, Granum
Kathy Wiebe, MD Ranchland
Lead staff: Bev Thornton, Executive Director, AlbertaSW 

MD tables solar power amendment bylaw

After extensive discussion at their January 10 meeting, council for the MD of Pincher Creek approved a motion by councillor Garry Marchuk that proposed bylaw 1269-16 – LUB Amendment for Solar Power Projects be tabled until more information is gathered about solar regulations recently enacted by the Alberta government. The bylaw had been up for second and possibly third reading at the meeting, having passed first reading on October 11, 2016. The proposed amendment would cover residential applications and commercial / industrial solar energy farms.

A public hearing to receive public input about the proposed bylaw was held Thursday, December 1, 2016. Several citizens spoke to council. In his January 4 report to council Director of Development and Community Services Roland Milligan summarized the issues raised at the hearing, as follows: "A developer and a landowner stated that the maximum height restriction of 2.44m, for household systems, was insufficient for even the small systems that have already been installed. It was mentioned that a system that is composed of two modules would be 4.19m (13.7') in height. With the module angled to the sun the height could be lowered to plus or minus 3.7m (12. l').This would include a metre or so of space at the bottom for shedding snow. An amendment to the allowable height to 4.0m (13.1 ') would allow for most contingencies. With regards to Commercial/Industrial systems. it was mentioned that there could be stronger language in reference to protecting agricultural lands. The requirement for a bond, perhaps, for the purpose of decommissioning abandoned solar projects was also mentioned."

In his recommendation document to council Milligan said "There have been numerous small off grid and small grid connected solar projects developed within the MD. Up to this point they have been treated as accessory structures within the Land UseBylaw. The MD is also aware that solar power developers are wanting to develop large grid tied solar farms within southern Alberta."

According to the MD's minutes, one citizen at the public hearing "requested clarification with regards to the small development and their requirements for Development Permits" and "requested clarification with regards to the design requirements from the MD." Another citizen "commended everyone for planning for renewal energy", "spoke in favour of the soil types stipulations contained within the proposed bylaw", "spoke to further wording regarding native grass land preservation / protection" and "spoke to transmission line concerns."  Another citizen commented "that his current solar system would not fit within the proposed guidelines."  Several amendments to the proposed bylaw amendment were suggested.

During the discussions at council's January 10 meeting councillor Quentin Stevick suggested that major changes to the bylaw amendment might require another public hearing be held on the subject.  He also mentioned that new 2017 provincial government regulations might necessitate some changes in addition to those proposed by council members, the public, and the MD's administration. 

Councillor Terry Yagos suggested passing the bylaw amendment as it stood, keeping in mind the rapid rate of change in the solar industry, and amend it further after that.  Reeve Brian Hammond urged proper attention to the proposed bylaw amendment, including possible changes to it,  before passing it.  Councillors Stevick and Fred Schoening expressed serious concerns about reclamation requirements should a solar installation fall into disuse, with Stevick comparing the possible situation to that of abandoned oil wells in the province.  Schoening suggested landowners bear some of the responsibility for remediation of the soil.  Reeve Hammond mentioned that the responsibilities would transfer to new owners if the land is sold, comparing it to how windmill titles work.  Milligan mentioned the recent remediation of decommissioned windmill sites in the area (Cowley Ridge), saying the Pincher Creek area is the first in the country to deal with that issue.  Schoening said he was most concerned with the difference between using screw piles for solar installation, which he said can be easily removed, compared to cement piles, which are "a different thing entirely".  Schoening said that was his biggest concern from the start.  Reeve Hammond asked what the trigger for an environmental assessment would be.  Milligan said the MD doesn't have jurisdiction over that, but it would instead be a requirement of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).

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