Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pincher Creek councils notes to Jan. 24, 2016

  • Curling Club insurance woes discussed at Town council
  • Pincher Creek Emergency Management Agency update
  • Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission levies approved
  • AHS supports Beaver Mines water project
  • Satoris Road update
  • Parent Link reaches lease agreement
  • Medically At Risk Drivers Pilot Project
  • Canadian Urban Transit Association membership for Town?
  • Highway 3 Twinning Development Association update
  • Wee libraries in Pincher Creek
  • MD councillor Marchuk angry about Castle parks plan

Curling Club insurance woes discussed at Town council

An unscheduled Pincher Creek Curling Club delegation composed of Brenda Heisler and Jessie Nelson appeared before Pincher Creek's Town Council on Monday evening January 23 to ask for council's help in securing insurance for the club's facility on Main Street.  The delegation told council that the club has been unable to secure liability or contents insurance past February 24 of this year, due to the unfavourable engineering report of 2011 which found that the structure needed extensive repair, or preferably replacement.  The same report led to the club being unable to acquire fire or structural insurance for the last several years.  Nelson explained to council that due to structural deficiencies, drainage issues, and structural inadequacies, "Basically, they are saying it's not worth the liability to keep us on anymore."

Council told the delegation that the Town was not able to extend their own insurance contract to cover third party organizations like the independent curling club.  Council and the delegation discussed the possibility of the Town purchasing the facility for a nominal amount to allow them to insure it under the Town's policy.  Under that plan the club would continue to pay for their ongoing expenses.  The delegation said that was not their preferred solution, but was possibly the only way to finish their season.

Mayor Don Anderberg suggested the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) may be able to help. The delegation said the club has explored that option, however as the club is not in the MD of Pincher Creek they are unlikely to be eligible for AAMDC assistance.

Town council added the issue to their in-camera portion of the meeting, held at the end of the public council meeting.  The curling club is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday, February 1, just ahead of their February 6 - 11 Town and Country Bonspiel, their biggest event of the season.  All curling club members have been asked to attend.

Pincher Creek Emergency Management Agency update

The Pincher Creek Emergency Management Agency's dissolution was effectively finalized this week with the closure and disbursement of funds from its bank account.  The agency was disbanded upon the formation of the new Regional Emergency Management Organization (REMO).  The Town was the managing municipality for the agency's banking, and on Monday January 23 Town council agreed to close the bank account account and disburse $98,197.95 (as of December 31, 2016) to the agency's three partners, the Village of Cowley, The M.D. of Pincher Creek No. 9, and the Town of Pincher Creek.  

According to documents, the funds will be disbursed "according to the formula used to determine the funding levels: 48.5% each for the Town of Pincher Creek and the Municipal District of Pincher Creek Number 9 and 3% for the Village of Cowley."  That translates into payments  to the Town of Pincher Creek and the MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 of $47,626.00 each, and a payment to the Village of Cowley of $2,945.95, assuming that the account is closed before the end of January, 2017 and there are no outstanding bank charges."

According to a letter sent to the MD by the Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission on January 13, the last year that levies were paid to the agency was 2014.

At their January 24 meeting council for the MD of Pincher Creek discussed the matter at some length, with the members of council who were present (Reeve Brian Hammond and councillors Garry Marchuk and Terry Yagos) all agreeing that they were dissatisfied with the agency's accounting practices. 

After an in camera session during their meeting of January 10, MD council passed a motion by councillor Terry Yagos that MD council send a letter to Pincher Creek Emergency Services "requesting that the information requested in our original letter of May 13, 2016, to prepare an accounting summary of funds held in the Emergency Management account, be forwarded to the MD, prior to January 31, 2017; And further that a copy of our letter be copied to the Town of Pincher Creek, and Village of Cowley."  Councillor Yagos also referred to an ongoing regulatory investigation into the agency's finances which was initiated at the MD's request, without going into details.  That investigation has only been discussed in camera at Town and MD council meetings to date, as far as this reporter can determine, and no on-the-record statement has been made or issued regarding it.

Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission levies approved

The Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission (PCESC) board recently passed an interim Operating budget and a 2017 Capital budget (click here for that story).  An interim operating budget was approved at the board's budget meeting earlier this month based on the 2016 operating budget of $463,500 plus additional 2017 funding of $35,406, for a total of $498.906   In October of 2016 the PCESC board approved the capital portion of the budget for a total of $308,000, of which $108,000 is to be paid from PCESC's capital reserve, and the remaining $200,000 is to be paid by a levy of the commission member municipalities.

At their January 24 meeting MD council discussed the MD's portion of the PCESC levies with MD Director of Finance Janene Felker. The MD of Pincher Creek is responsible for 64.63% of each levy. The MD's portion of the 2017 operating levy is $332,442.95, and the MD's portion of the capital levy is $129,260. According to a letter to the MD by Pincher Creek Emergency Services Chief Dave Cox, the amounts may be adjusted when a 2017 commission operating budget is approved in place of the current interim budget.

According to Felker's report to MD council, "The 2017 Operating and Capital Levies from Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission have been received and are significantly over the amount included in the 2017 budget. The amount in the 2017 budget is $316, 170. This was calculated by increasing the 2016 Levy ($306,962) by 3%. The 2017 Levies... total $451,702.95. This represents a 47% increase when compared to the 2016 levy.

Normally, the levy would be passed directly to the tax payers of the MD through a separate mill rate included in the 2017 mill rate bylaw and collected with their property taxes. Due to the significant increase, the Mill Rate Stabilization Reserve could be used to fund a portion of the levy to absorb the impact on MD tax payers. Since the capital levy of $129,260 is new for 2017 it is suggested that this be the portion funded by the Mill Rate Stabilization Reserve."

Councillor Terry Yagos expressed reservations before voting to approve the levies, saying that levies are usually approved for annual budgets, not interim budgets.  All three members of council and CAO Wendy Kay all expressed concerns about the commission's accounting process.  After much discussion, MD council approved Felker's recommendations, agreeing to the levies.

At their January 23 regular meeting council for the Town of Pincher Creek noted that the 2017 levy for the Town of Pincher Creek based on the interim budget is higher than approved in the Town's 2017 operating budget passed at their December 12, 2016 regular council meeting. Town council agreed the Town will pay the amount authorized in the 2017 budget and will adjust the amount, if necessary, once the 2017 operations budget for the Commission is passed.

AHS supports Beaver Mines water project

According to a letter by Alberta Health Services - South Zone Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karin Goodison to MD of Pincher Creek Director of Operations Leo Reedyk dated January 9, 2017, AHS supports the proposed potable water distribution and waste water collection system for Beaver Mines. The letter reads, in its entirety, as follows:

"Further to previous communications in 2014 and 2015, Alberta Health Services (AHS) recognises the potential risks and negative cumulative effects of the current drinking water and waste water system used in Beaver Mines. Our office has investigated an increasing number of failed private sewage systems in Beaver Mines. Furthermore, groundwater is the primary drinking water source for the residents, and Environmental Public Health has serious concerns with the increasing likelihood residents will be negatively impacted from waterborne diseases.

The groundwater table in the area is shallow making it particularly susceptible to contamination from sewage. Sewage harbours many disease causing organisms specifically E. Coli, a bacteria that can cause serious illness or death (e.g., the Walkerton outbreak in 2000). Due to the risk of this bacteria contaminating resident's drinking water. Environmental Public Health has urged residents to test their water on a regular basis and maintain private treatment systems. Results of many of these resident's water tests demonstrate persistent contamination from Total Coliform bacteria (commonly used as an indicator of groundwater contamination). This presents a risk to human health.

We understand the M.D. of Pincher Creek is in the approval stage for the development of a potable water distribution and waste water collection system for the hamlet of Beaver Mines. From a public health perspective, a potable water distribution system would reduce the risks of water-borne diseases and reduce the negative health effects from contaminated groundwater. AHS also recognizes that proper collection and disposal of waste water is crucial whenever potable water is offered through a communal distribution system.

I, as a representative of AHS Environmental Public Health in the South Zone, support the M.D. of Pincher Creek's development of a potable water distribution and waste water collection system to Beaver Mines."
Dr. Karin Goodison
Medical Officer of Health
Alberta Health Services - South ZoneEnvironmental Public Health

Satoris Road update

One of the MD of Pincher Creek's 2013 Disaster Recovery Projects (after flooding that year), for Satoris Road, is still awaiting Alberta Environment and Parks approval for road realignment.

Parent Link reaches lease agreement

According to MD Reeve Brian Hammons, Parent Link has reached an agreement with the Ranchland Mall to extend their lease at the mall, quellings some uncertainty.

Medically At Risk Drivers Pilot Project

At the January 12 meeting of Town council Mayor Don Anderberg said "We are getting a grant through the University of Alberta. It's called the Medically at Risk Drivers Program. It's targeted at people who can no longer drive their own vehicle for whatever reason."

To be clear, the program is separate from the Town's recently announced GreenTrip community busing initiative, although councillor Lorne Jackson said there may be some crossover opportunities.  "This transportation is more on-demand," explained Mayor Anderberg.  "This is a pilot project for the Province."

The Town's transportation committee has been meeting with various community groups, including FCSS, First Student, Associate Clinic, Huddleston Centre, Pincher Creek Legion, Care Bears, Whispering Winds, Crestview Lodge and Vista Village. Local taxi services will also be approached for input.

CAO Laurie Wilgosh said the program is also keeping administration busy.  "I think we just wanted council to be aware of the time commitment from staff to work on this, and the time commitment from the transportation committee."

A needs assessment for the entire province is being developed.

Council directed administration to research possible membership in the Canadian Urban Transit Association (see related article below) and attendance at their annual conference, with the information to be brought back to the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 1.

Related link:

Canadian Urban Transit Association membership for Town?

At their January 23 meeting Town council directed administration to research membership into the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and the desirability of sending representation to the association's annual conference, which will be held May 29 to June 1, 2017 in Markham, Ontario. The information is to be brought back to the Town's Committee of the Whole meeting on February 1.  Councillor Doug Thornton told council the association has done a lot of research and said he sees a lot of value in becoming a member now that Pincher Creek will be creating a community busing system.  According to their website, CUTA "is a member-based association that supports public transit as the core of integrated mobility across Canada... by providing our members with the resources, networking, training, events, data, research and advocacy needed to support their success in the industry."

Highway 3 Twinning Development Association update

According to the minutes of Highway 3 Twinning Development Association's January 3, 2017 meeting, Dr. Kien Tran of the University of Lethbridge told the association a cost benefit analysis is the major focus of the current study on twinning Highway 3, and an initial report will be ready for the association's review by the end of March.

Alberta Transportation Southern Region Infrastructure Manager Jerry Lau updated the Association on upcoming work, including will pavement overlay on 11 kilometers of Highway 3 from Taber going east to Lamb Weston. Lau also said there will be a one to two year Functional Planning Study for two areas of Highway 3, Blairmore to Pincher Creek and Taber to Burdett.

Wee libraries in Pincher Creek

Four "Wee Libraries" have been installed around the Town, courtesy of the teachers and students at Matthew Halton High School.  Please take a book, leave a book.

MD Councillor Marchuk angry about Castle parks plan

During the reports segment of the January 24 meeting of council for the MD of Pincher Creek. Division 3 Councillor Garry Marchuk said he has been receiving many phone calls, visits, and emails about the Castle parks draft management plan, which was unveiled at a Government of Alberta press release event at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek last Friday.

Marchuk's division includes Beaver Mines, and the Castle parks are almost literally in his and many of his constituents' back yards.

"The frustrations, and some of my frustrations regarding this, was the lack of that notification that the announcement was going to be made," said Marchuk, who asked council to consider directing administration to write a letter to the Government of Alberta "Letting them know our total displeasure at the way they handled the situation." He said there was a lack of public notification, and the venue was too small for the people who came to hear the announcement.  "The biggest thing is them not letting us know they were coming."

Marchuk said he has attended numerous meetings over the past four or five years with a variety of groups involved in the Castle area.  "Never once, at any of those meetings I have attended, has there been any talk about eliminating OHV )off highway vehicle) use for that area. It has always been about designated trails, user fees, and enforcement."
"They misled us with information they gave us up front about what's going to happen back in those areas."

"Nothing in here (the draft plan) addresses what future use could be up there."

Marchuk said there were going to be negative impacts for area bed and breakfast providers, food establishments, others in hospitality and tourism, those who sell or maintain RVs and other mechanical equipment, and stores that cater to tourist traffic. "How are we going to replace the money that's generated into the community, because of the loss of all these ATVers?"

"It's a sad state of affairs."
"I could go on and on for hours."

Marchuk said people in his division have bought property specifically for access to recreational areas.

"This setting aside everything for future generations has got to quit. We have got to manage our parks, we have Provincial parks all over this province. We need to reflect the issues and the needs of today's Albertans. We recreate differently today than we did in the past, and we'll recreate in the future. Instead of shoving everything down we've got to learn to work together. And we've got to strike some balance where everybody has access to use to do the things they like to do back there in the Horseshoe area. It's public land and belongs to everybody, not just a few."
"We cannot keep eliminating things to the benefit of very few people."

Marchuk said he was told that the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad was denied permission to hold their annual Poker Run north of Highway 774 "Because part of that trail is above 6,000 feet. So the economic negative impact to the Crowsnest Pass has already started." 

"I have had more phone calls, more people coming to my house in the last few days than in the last 5 years of being on the council."

Reeve Brian Hammond suggested a meeting of affected jurisdictions "To reach a consensus, and collect a number of concerns that are specific to their areas."

Councillor Terry Yagos said he had just received the draft plan documents and wanted to review them before drafting a letter to the Province. "I would like one more chance to get more information, read something about it, know something about it."  He said he too was concerned about a lack of notice about the announcement.

"We have got to remember this is just a draft plan, too. If we want to negotiate, we have got to take a positive approach here, too," said Yagos.

Reeve Hammond said "I would really like the opportunity to prepare a more detailed list of concerns." He said the council were in agreement about concern about the lack of notification. "I think we need more time to look at the document and consider what are the implications to our rate pays, some of which, you have already mentioned."

Councillor Yagos moved to table councillor Marchuk's motion until the February 14 council meeting.  That motion passed, with councillor Yagos and Reeve Hammond assenting and councillor Marchuk dissenting.

Marchuk said he plans to attend a public meeting about the Castle parks plan to be held on February 7 at the Cowley Community Hall.


  1. So far all I have seen about the Castle park thing is people complaining about what THEY are going to have to give up. Well, maybe its time we all sacrificed some things for the betterment of this little corner of Alberta. Quads tear up the land, maybe try hiking? There will still be access, and there will still be people coming here and spending money. Its not all about who and what business will make money, its about land preservation! If he was really concerned with local business, then council would not renew the business licence at Walmart, and have the place closed down. Then maybe other business could spring up and the profits would stay here instead of heading to Arkansas? As for "Eliminating things for the benefit of a few" That should be the other way around... eliminate the (destructive) activities of a few, so that the many can enjoy. As it is now, there are so many random campers everywhere, and a person feels he is trespassing in his own back yard! Lets stop the greediness and instead focus on sharing our wonderful land. Put in some campgrounds, like there used to be, and add a few quad trails. Lets face it, we will all have to sacrifice a bit in order to keep it pristine for future generation.

  2. Footnote* The "revenue" that people bring to this area rarely stays here. If you watch, like I have, where people with RV's stop before they head out west, its always at Walmart! we have a great Coop and other stores in town, but the revenue is being sucked away and on to Bentonville Arkansas! Maybe we ought to review the business licence of that particular business and bring back Sobeys and maybe even a Canadian tire. I have watched the downtown core deteriorate to practically nothing, where it used to be a busy little hub! Send Walmart packing, and business will return!

  3. The betterment of this little corner of of Alberta is to leave it open to Albertans to use how they have for generations. OHV use is a way of life. OHVers have sacrificed enough. Trails closed areas closures. Enough of OHVers sacrificing. It has been going on for years and know other user groups have sacrificed except industry. Closing an area down for the elitists that think they should impose their way of life on the masses. OHVers bring in more money to this area then the conservation groups ever will.They have a $200 pair of boots I have a $24000 SXS. I brought more the economy of this area then 120 hikers ever will. OHV use specifically quad and SxS industry in this Country is a 6 billion doller a year industry and it is estimated that Alberta's part is close to 1.5 Billion, Yes Billion. Here is a link to the facts about that. STU feels he is trespassing in his own back yard well at least he can still use it the way he wants to. But I have been told I cant use my back yard. I agree with him that they need more campgrounds or expand what then have, but leave the quad trails that are there and enforce the laws. That is all it would take. But you won't need the campgrounds at all if you take OHV use out of the area because OHVers are who comes here to use the area's. Who will get to judge if this is a pristine area if know one except a few hikers see it. Governments spend Millions for infrastructure for Non motorized activities and those activities can be done anywhere already. OHV use Cant be. It is limited to a few trails of the forestry. So we, (OHV users) have sacrificed enough.

  4. Anonymous3/2/17

    I'm still informing myself to the issues but these have been my personal observations the last 15 years we have lived here.

    Initially, we used the Castle area a lot for camping, hiking, fishing and mountain biking. The first few years were great! Then when they started enforcing and shutting down the Ghost Lake-Waisparus area the problems there shifted down here in a big way.

    I know there are responsible OHV users and that the responsible ones have also been involved in the development and maintenance of a great trail system in the area that benefits many of us that use the area. However, their influence on a large component of the OHV users has not been influential enough to stop the destruction that has occurred the last 10+ years.

    About 9-10 years ago we more or less stopped using the Castle area for camping. Everytime we went out there was more and more destruction and disregard for the special area it is. Campers setting up in one spot from April to October with semi-permanent structures attached & the accompanying "entitlement" they brought with them, unattended fires, broken bottles (mostly from shooting glass bottles), garbage, abandoned furniture, human waste etc. etc. Roads, streams, camping areas torn up and irreparable. We would spend our entire weekend cleaning up after other people and trying to restore some sense of respect to the area. We couldn't sleep because of the loud music, the quads, side-by-sides, dirt bikes tearing around at all time of the day and night, often without safety equipment and often under the influence of alcohol. Young kids, virtually unsupervised, riding around on OHVs as well. Even a guy, beer in hand, with an INFANT, strapped with a bungie cord to the back of his quad. WTH are people thinking?

    We venture out occasionally to go for a walk or hike but are disappointed each time. I understand there is very little enforcement out there but really, if people just showed some respect, there shouldn't need to be. People don't police each other when they are out there with their friends. I see the posts on FB of the quads, trucks and bikes covered in mud, stuck on trails, tearing up the rivers and creeks and people think it's funny and more disturbingly, they think it's their RIGHT.

    So we now go to the Provincial campgrounds where there are no motorized vehicles allowed and there is some supervision for those that decide to make it their party spot. We would rather be out in the forestry, but it's just too disheartening.

    Again, to the individuals and groups that do use the area respectfully, I feel bad for you all but from what I've seen out there the last 10+ years, I think this is a good thing for the area (at least from an ecological perspective). This way we can ALL use the area and it will be able to recover from the recent abuse it has taken.

    The fact that someone drives a $24,000 SxS and I wear a $100 hiking boots is a foolish argument from my perspective. That SxS also leaves a much more significant ecologically damaging footprint than my hiking boots and doesn't afford someone any more rights to enjoy the area than me.

    I know this may not be the popular view but until people show some respect for the environment and back country I think this has to be done. Heck, people can't even use the garbage bins in town and toss their cans/bottles and litter everywhere. Then they take that attitude out to the back country & model this behaviour for their children.

    After watching the behaviour of "responsible adults" on video at the public announcement I'm signing this anonymous because I don't want to be targeted by those "responsible adults" who know me and where I live.

    1. Anonymous4/2/17

      I don't know if anonymous has actually read the above news story, NDP draft plan, and what Councillor Marchuk was concerned about. The continuing economic destruction of the entire area. From forestry, oil and gas, and now another huge economic loss to this area. The NDP's answer to this is by their own words they want to build hotels for all the tourists that are going to come, to off set the economic impact to the area. GR was pointing out the economics, that 1 person with 1 SXS does more for the local economy then 240 hikers like anonymous do. Anonymous thought this was a foolish argument. GR's argument seems perfectly sound.


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