Extensive interim work is being done at Valley Ski hill at Alliance this fall in hopes of getting it open for this year’s ski season while more work will be required in the long term to keep the ski hill operating. Snow was being made on Mon. Dec. 12 on the ‘dog leg’ while operators were manning the big equipment on the ‘expert’ and ‘bowl’ to push dirt back up the hill.
Extensive work is being done on the ski hill supported financially with $300,000 each from Paintearth county and Flagstaff county over a period of three years.
The ski hill is looking for volunteer equipment operators to push dirt up the hill in an interim effort to get the ski hill open this year with long term plans for extensive work to keep the hill going, said CAO Aaserud.
Council determined there were too many implications [safety assessments, etc.] to have county staff out there during work hours.
“That’s why we give the financial contribution,” said Coun. Dalmer. That doesn’t prevent county staff from doing it on their own time, outside of work hours.
Paintearth council approved their Interim Budget with a 2.4 per cent cost of living increase in wages for non-union employees for 2017 in a 7 – 1 vote with Coun. Dalmer opposed.
“I think we’ve been pretty generous in the seven years I’ve been back [on council],” said Coun. Rocky Dalmer noting it’s likely around the 20 per cent over the seven years and adding in these times we need to be prudent.
Coun. Dalmer also noted he had talked with other counties and found most were not going over the 1.5 per cent.
He also said he had a problem with the per cent system of raises because it broadens the gap between the higher paid employees from the lesser paid employees, noting he has seen this happen in other fields [of employment], as well. Dalmer however, noted he was was satisfied with the “cautious budget which is good”.
Coun. Doreen Blumhagen reported that Flagstaff County wage increase was 1.8 per cent.
“We’ve been in that position before, we don’t want to play catch-up,” noted Coun. Tyrill Hewitt making the motion to adopt the Interim Operating budget noting that he did not want to see the county have to play catch-up on wages. The county union employees, according to their contract, have a 2.4 per cent increase for 2017.
CAO Tarolyn Aaserud noted the cost of living increase added $15,000 to the budget.
No adjustments were added into the budget for the affects of the carbon tax as no one knows, as of yet, what effects the carbon tax will have on the municipal budgets.
Fuel alone impact would be approximately $70,000, said CAO Aaserud, noting on a 3.3 million dollar budget, an estimate of the carbon tax would be $100,000 but until we know, it’s hard to budget.
When the final budget is passed in April, it is hopeful that municipalities will know more on the effects of the carbon tax as to whether there will be reimbursements from the government or exemptions.
The interim budget is taking into consideration of the current economic state a decrease in assessments of $95,068,540 so with the same mill rate as 2016 it will mean a decrease of $1,011,046 in tax revenue. The operating budget has increased approximately $75,000 with this change comprising of the decrease in operating revenue of $160,000 and the decrease in operating expenditures of $86,000 as a result of the decreased revenue in water for waterline hook-up fees, and the increase in fire services for the addition of the fire capital grants to the local fire departments as per the new agreement.
Greengate wind farm project
Dan Tocher of Greengate along with Matthew Breakey, a wind resource engineer with WSP Canada Inc. and Robert McCallum, a registered biological specialist gave a presentation on the Paintearth Wind Project going up between Sullivan Lake and Lanes Lake.
With new technology for the generators, taller wind towers, and longer blades, the 45 towers will generate the same megawatts as the 83 towers do at the Halkirk wind farm making the footprint considerably smaller, noted Tocher.
Greengate, along with their new corporate partner, Potentia from Ontario are developing three wind projects (383 megawatts) in Alberta. The Paintearth Project covers approximately 20,000 acres. The underground footprint on the taller towers remains the same. No actual construction will occur until 2018.
When council questioned regarding geese mortality, the high population of swans in the area in the spring, owls and bats, McCallum said all environmental impacts have been and will continue to be studied.
He noted the location moving for some towers followed the studies and also said geese are known for ‘avoidance behaviour’ and lack of mortality on wind farms. He did however, say they have made a FOIP application to Alberta Environment for information as to exactly what is happening in the Halkirk project regarding geese mortality, which they haven’t received yet.
Other considerations when placing towers is noise, shadow flicker, land value, crop dusting, visual impact, wildlife and impact on human health, although Tocher noted there is no independent documented studies that can link any health issues to wind farms.
Breakey told council regarding shadow flicker, that Alberta Environment had no regulations in place, but Greengate has applied Germany’s guidelines.
When asked about land reclamation, Tocher noted that Greengate separates the top soil from the sub soil “We use best practices,” added Tocher.
When Coun. Blumhagen asked about land value, Tocher said they really don’t get involved in that.