Contractors damaged county road, should have known better hears council

A County of Stettler road was damaged by contractors working for the provincial government, and the workers should have known better, heard county council during their regular meeting Apr. 22.
The meeting was held via teleconference to meet coronavirus social distancing guidelines.
Coun. Dave Grover requested the condition of Scollard Road be added to the agenda and stated he was very concerned about the condition of the road. 
He stated the road appeared to be wrecked when frost came out of the ground this spring, including ruts in the road two feet deep and the road should be upgraded to a haul standard. 
“It was terrible,” said Grover. “It was pretty bad this spring.”
CAO Yvette Cassidy stated staff does have a plan for Scollard Road.
Director of Operations Rick Green was in council chambers for the meeting and disagreed about the ruts; Green stated they were not two feet deep. Green also stated the basic structure of Scollard Road is fine, does not need to be upgraded and it’s not unusual to see very soft roads in the springtime in the County of Stettler. 
Green stated he felt Scollard Road had maintenance issues, not reconstruction issues and Scollard Road actually is being worked to a haul standard.
County staff did note, however, a contractor working for Alberta Transportation was using Scollard Road last summer. 
The county had a Road Use Agreement (RUA) in place with the contractor but didn’t realize there was damage until the RUA had expired.
Green stated the contractor’s trucks were conducting a constant haul on Scollard Road when it was wet and raining which contributed to the road’s bad condition and that everyone involved should have known better.
Grover stated he was at Scollard Road and saw a tandem grain truck stuck in the mud and saw no weigh scale nearby. Grover said he wanted to know where trucks were being weighed.
Cassidy stated staff would prepare a report for next fall on peace officer activity in that area at that time.
Addressing issues
Councillors revisited an issue from a previous meeting, rural addressing issues with Stettler County’s border with Lacombe County, specifically roads which have Stettler County residents on one side, Lacombe County residents on another which have different addressing systems.
County staff stated in a report to council they’d been in touch with Lacombe County to see what can be done to improve clarity and accuracy especially for emergency personnel who are looking for an address in that area.
Lacombe County suggested all resident’s address signs also include the county logo which applies to their location, Stettler for Stettler County, Lacombe for Lacombe County, so personnel will know which addressing systems applies. 
Staff estimated adding the logo signs to 11 residences would cost about $12 each.
Coun. James Nibourg stated the low price seemed like a great way to solve this problem. Councillors approved adding the logo to the signs.
Financial statements
Councillors heard a report from Gitzel & Company representative Peggy Weinzierl, who attended the meeting via teleconference. She presented the county’s 2019 audited financial statements. 
Weinzierl stated that in her opinion the financial statements accurately reflected the county’s financial position in 2019.
Weinzierl noted penalties on taxes were up from previous years.
Councillors unanimously accepted the audited financial statements. Later in the meeting councillors also appointed Gitzel & Co. as the county’s auditor for 2020.
Road clean-up changes
Councillors rescinded a county policy which offered supplies and payment for groups stepping forward to clean up litter on certain county roads. 
Staff estimated the county would save about $3,500 per year by rescinding the policy.
It was noted the policy may not necessarily be permanently cancelled.
Battle River Research Group
Councillors decided to retain $10,000 in funding to the BRRG, which does agricultural research in the County of Stettler area. 
It was noted during the meeting the provincial government has cut certain grants that affect the agriculture industry, such as $40,000 cut from the Provincial Ag Service Board grant for 2020.
The county usually funds the BRRG to the tune of $7,500 per year. Councillors approved the BRRG’s request for $10,000.
No concerns
A public hearing was held for Bylaw No. 1631-20 to amend Land Use Bylaw (LUB)  1443-10 in order to incorporate the development regulations from the former Village of Botha Land Use Bylaw No. 413/15 into the County’s development regulations.
No members of the public spoke either in favour or against the proposal to include the former hamlet’s LUB in the county’s regulations. No letters or emails were received either.
After the public hearing was closed, staff noted Botha residents will not lose any rights they previously had. They also noted an open house was held that saw 12 members of the public attend.
The amendment was tabled to the next council meeting to get feedback from the fire department about building heights.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
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