Designated gopher hunters soon to be on duty in Elnora

Written by Terri Huxley

Every year, many residents call the village about the bylaws surrounding the extermination of gophers.

One resident contacted the office to let Elnora know that Three Hills, a south neighbouring community, has allowed contracted people to shoot crows which made the resident question if this was possible for gophers.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sharon Wesgate phoned the Three Hills RCMP detachment and found a bylaw that showed this could be allowed with certain parameters.

“Back in the day,” began Dep. Mayor Leah Nelson. “This was long before bylaws like this existed… When I first moved here there were two people that were allowed to shoot in town. 

“They were the ‘chosen ones’ rather than everybody who has a licence to shoot gophers in town. I mean that might be another approach.”

She suggested this with having only a handful of people being allowed to shoot with only so many permit holders per year.

“I just don’t like the idea that anyone that holds a gun license can shoot in town because sooner or later something is going to happen,” said Nelson.

A motion was made to have administration draft a bylaw and permit application for review at next month’s meeting that specifically covers both pests and firearms usage.

Diesel spill

A diesel spill in front of property 509-5 Ave. was brought to the village’s attention recently.

Public works foreman Rod Rintoul assessed the scene and documented photos of the contamination.

Shortly after, the property owner informed Foreman Rintoul that someone had drilled a hole into the slip tank on the back of his truck attempting to steal fuel, leaving what was left to drain into the boulevard.

A similar incident has been reported at the Health Care centre as well.

No witnesses saw who committed these crimes.

The owner was going to hire a contractor to remove the contaminated soil but were advised to wait until council had an opportunity to discuss.

Since the spill was on public property and if not cleaned up properly, the village could be held liable for not complying with disposal regulations, so council passed a motion to pay for the cleanup.

Disruption of water service

During an excavation at the main pumphouse, some underground wires for Well #3 were snagged and broke off.

This was not noticed until that evening when CAO Wesgate got a notification that the pumphouse had lower pressure.

 Public works was already in the process of fixing it, getting a loaner surge protector unit from Byrne’s Electric in Three Hills.

The incident was reported to Alberta Environment as required.

Rintoul has been flushing the hydrants and taking multiple chlorine samples to ensure lines are still up to standard.

The damaged wiring has also been repaired but Rintoul made clear that these lines were not located as marked on the map.

Council believed the issue was spurred from the village so they carried a motion to pay for the repairs.

Off-leash dog park

The future of an off-leash dog park remains unknown after council felt the best plan moving forward was to gain opinions from the public by way of open house.

With COVID-19 throwing a wrench into things like not allowing large group gatherings, the open house will be held later in the year depending on government guidelines.

Council has been slightly leery about pursuing the park as fencing can cost upwards of $10,000 for the structure and installation.

The village is considering rezoning just a small portion of the proposed property for this project if the desire from residents is there.

Council asked if the park had to be fenced in but Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sharon Wesgate explained that it could become a liability.

Closed session

Deputy Mayor Nelson moved to relocate the July 14, 2020 regular council meeting to the Elnora Legion, if it is available, to comply with pandemic physical distancing regulations with the meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The motion passed after council went out of camera after their closed session, falling under FOIP Section 197(2) of the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

The three councillors went into the closed meeting at 4:21 p.m. and returned at 5:32 p.m.

AUC Multiplier

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has accepted ATCO/Elnora’s request to pursue the LED Multiplier which allows Elnora to replace the majority of their old street lights in favour of new energy-efficient lighting with a convenient payment system.

Although no start date has been established yet, council was elated by the news.

“New lights… right on!” said Mayor Robert Aellen.

Tie in request

An Elnora resident approached the village asking for a new tie-in to their property for utilities at their own cost.

Administration deemed public works would still need to inspect before any work begins as their current mapping is ‘questionable’.

Their public works foreman says that hydrovacing may be needed to determine which way the water flows and how large the pipes are since the map is unclear.

Wesgate described it as the water piping currently running down Kings Street on one side then switches to the other side and public works are unsure of where it changes between the two.

The problem with the Municipal Affairs Act (MGA), Wesgate noted, was that if a resident requests a tie-in they are obligated to permit it. They just have to make sure that what they are connecting to is legal.

Cross connections are illegal because of high contamination rates making this request more challenging.

Council felt it was important to keep the landowner informed and that they should obtain quotes for hydrovacing to see if they wish to continue.

Busy village office

CAO Wesgate noted the large influx of people coming to the village office for various reasons like tax or utility payments.

“We are getting a lot of people to the office right now. A lot,” said Wesgate.

Wesgate asked to have signage put up requesting only one person be allowed in the office at any one time with social distancing.

Chairs would be removed and counters and debit machines will be wiped clean after each use to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“People want to pay their taxes so let’s not make it difficult [for them],” said Wesgate.

Dep. Mayor Nelson pointed out that most municipalities have returned to full capacity.

She asked if this was possible for the village.

“I would prefer not to have full staff at this time. The reason being is that the photocopier is right beside FCSS.”

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) employees did have a space in the office but has since transferred to working at home since the pandemic began.

The one employee has a child with health concerns, keeping the employee at home to avoid catching anything.

“I think working remotely is working well for FCSS,” said Wesgate.

Council urged administration that they would like stronger communication between the village and FCSS when it comes to utilizing the same equipment for fairness.

For example, Dep. Mayor Nelson was concerned that FCSS would be coming in after hours to use office equipment for their work when they could work together to allow them time during the day.

Wesgate said they already do this when it comes to lunchtime and after hours.

Coun. Kerrilyn Mose chimed in agreeing with Nelson saying, “They should be able to work together just to be safe and it’s not like they would be in there for full shifts or anything like that. Just if they needed to pop in for a bit I think I agree with Leah. Maybe have it so they do make arrangements.”

CAO Wesgate said they may have to change it a bit to make sure it works well for everybody.

“Okay as long as it doesn’t bother with people coming and going in the office as well,” she said.

The office opened to the public on Fri. June 12 following provincial regulations lifting for Stage 2 of reopening services.

“Because Stage 2 is opening public libraries, wellness services, personal services, moving theatres, community halls we can’t really in theory lock it down too hard because there are accessibilities back and forth,” said Nelson.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.