Council unsure about owning contaminated property

Written by Stu Salkeld

Morrin village council sounded unsure about whether or not to acquire a contaminated property with an unpaid tax bill. The discussion was held at the July 20 council meeting.

The council meeting agenda package contained some information about the former Gas Plus property which is located on Main Street Morrin; at previous council meetings councillors have discussed the fact an unpaid tax bill is connected to the property along with an underground contamination which apparently was linked to the property’s past use as a service station.

The documentation was correspondence between the village and Alberta Environment and some of it was dated 2021.

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner stated that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) may contain a clause that makes the village responsible for the contamination clean-up if the municipality takes ownership of that property.

Mayor Chris Hall stated he wondered if in 45 years the contamination may have lessened; he also wondered how serious the contamination was. Councillors discussed having the property tested, and noted that they were not sure how to do that.

Coun. Lorraine MacArthur stated she was hesitant to take the property if the village faced a large clean-up bill.

During discussion it was noted that the property in question sometimes has a smell associated with it.

School details
Council held a public hearing for a re-zoning application, then dealt with that application and a subsequent subdivision request all for the property the new school is being built on.

During the public hearing Palliser Regional Planning Services staffer Garry Wilson presented to councillors the re-zoning application from the former Starland School Division, now called Prairie Land School Division, to re-zone the new school property from commercial to community services.

Wilson noted years ago it was likely thought the property in question might someday be used for new businesses. For the school to be located there it needed to be re-zoned.

No concerns were aired about the application and after the public hearing was closed councillors unanimously approved second and third readings of the re-zoning bylaw.

Then Wilson presented the subdivision application.

The school division requested a subdivision for the old gymnasium to sit on its own parcel so that it can be sold to another group.

Councillors unanimously approved the subdivision request.

Drumheller seniors
Coun. M’Liss Edwards presented a request via email from the Drumheller and District Seniors Foundation that Morrin council approve extending the foundation’s loan by between $2 million to $3 million which would allow the foundation to expand a facility.

Edwards noted without the loan extension the addition cannot be built.

Edwards stated as far as she knew the loan extension would not affect the village’s requisition.

The CAO responded she thought an increased loan must affect Morrin’s requisition.

Edwards responded she knew that the foundation wants to borrow an additional $2 million for the addition.

Coun. MacArthur stated she felt the foundation should have sent a formal letter for this request and Plachner agreed.

“Why can’t people do that?” asked MacArthur.

Edwards responded the foundation doesn’t expect the loan to be as much as $3 million.
“They don’t expect it to be that much,” said Edwards.

MacArthur asked how other member municipalities were contacted and Edwards responded some members have already approved extending the loan.

“They’ve already approved it” said Edwards. “Drumheller’s approved it, Delia’s approved it.”

MacArthur responded she would not approve it until she saw a letter from the foundation explaining how big the loan would be and whether it affects Morrin’s requisition.
Councillors agreed to request such a letter from the foundation.

Service station
During council reports Mayor Hall noted he’s had discussions with UFA managers from the Calgary office about getting a service station built in Morrin.

“He said Morrin is on the list,” said Hall, referring to communities where a UFA service station has apparently been considered.

Mayor Hall stated UFA plans to send staff out in the fall to investigate the feasibility of developing a service station in Morrin.

Councillors discussed available property in the village.

Lions Club
Council received a response from the local Lions Club regarding several requests the village council made at a previous meeting all related to the Main Street park. Previously councillors asked if the club would be interested in painting the gazebo and adding lights.

The Lions Club declined, noting they liked the way the gazebo looks as-is and lights could be set up temporarily as needed. They also asked if the sign could be moved.

Council agreed the sign can be moved as the club requested.

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.