Valley council hears public opposition to new tractor

Written by Stu Salkeld

Big Valley council decided the municipality will look more carefully into a proposal to purchase a new tractor for its Public Works department after public opposition to the effort has surfaced. The resolution was passed at the Sept. 14 regular meeting of council.

Readers should note that Elaine Macdonald, who is retiring from the village, will be referred to as the chief administrative officer (CAO) of the Village of Big Valley for the purposes of this story, but councillors passed a resolution earlier in the meeting appointing her successor, Colleen Maine, to that position.

Macdonald provided councillors with a brief on the condition of an important piece of capital equipment for the village, the Public Works tractor.

“The Public Works foreman has reported that there are several deficiencies with the tractor,” noted Macdonald’s memo. “In addition, it isn’t the appropriate machine for plowing and removing great volumes of snow.

“Public Works and administration can begin looking for a replacement that would provide the best options for what we require. We need council to provide some direction on how much can be allocated to this purchase and are we using reserves or getting a debenture or loan for the purchase.

“The advantage to getting a loan or a debenture is that the cost is spread over several years and is paid for by all residents – including those that move in after the purchase, who benefit from the service provided by the equipment.

“It then leaves the reserves intact for anything that is more emergent that may arise. For example, a major water or sewer issue that happens in the middle of winter and no grant funding has been approved for.

“Using reserves for the equipment means we have no debt, but the benefit isn’t equitably shared. We have approximately $340,574 in unrestricted reserves. This is the amount that is left after deducting what we have from grant monies and $14,000 that was designated by council to water reserves,” stated the CAO’s memo.

Mayor Dan Houle began the discussion by noting a letter circulating in the community apparently notifying residents of the village’s plans to buy a new tractor and opposing such a move.

Houle noted the tractor is quite old, with Macdonald adding, “Older than dirt.”

Houle noted ongoing repair bills for an old piece of equipment and stated he was in favour of replacing it. Macdonald stated a representative for the John Deere company inspected it and described the tractor as being on its last legs.

Coun. Clark German stated the tractor is an important piece of village equipment and before replacing it he felt council should have something in writing from a qualified expert describing the actual condition of the vehicle.

German added that he also felt if the condition of the tractor was that bad this topic should have been discussed five years ago.

German also stated that he understood it may not be wise to spend more money repairing a vehicle that has exceeded its lifespan.

Coun. Amber Hoogenberg stated she was concerned pausing the tractor replacement may be an issue with winter approaching, as the tractor is needed for plowing snow on village streets.

Mayor Houle stated the village has many repair bills for the tractor illustrating its problems and it’s been breaking down when it’s needed which causes difficulties for the village.

Several members of the public were in attendance at the council meeting and spoke up in opposition to purchasing a new tractor; it seemed their reasoning was that residents are concerned the tractor may not need to be replaced and about unchecked spending of tax dollars.

Councillors passed a unanimous resolution that village staff will arrange for the tractor in question to be inspected by a qualified and neutral third party and that a report on the tractor’s condition be sent to council.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.