Former mayor sends letter of concern to Village of Morrin

Morrin village council discussed the condition of farm equipment on display around town at their July 21 regular meeting. ECA Review/S.Salkeld
Written by Stu Salkeld

A former mayor sent a letter of concern over a sewer line issue to the Village of Morrin, and the acting council dealt with the matter at the July 21 regular meeting of council.

Morrin’s Official Administrator (OA) Harold Johnsrude noted that the village received a letter from Gerald E. Masuch of Masuch Law LLP on behalf of former Mayor Howard Helton regarding a sewer line issue. 

Johnsrude authorized the CAO to deal with the issues mentioned in the letter and also authorized the village to contact a lawyer who specializes in municipal issues to advise.

The ECA Review obtained a copy of the letter following the meeting and it stated in part, “It would appear to our office, and to the Helton’s, that the Village of Morrin is being inconsistent in regard to its sewer line maintenance policy.

“In September of 2020, the Village conducted an inspection of the lateral line adjacent to our client’s house [Helton’s]. This inspection could not be completed because the camera encountered a “blockage” approx. 26 ft. into the Village’s lateral line.

“Because the blockage was in the Village’s lateral line, the Village should have followed its policy to remove the blockage, and to re-inspect the line with cameras, and to take appropriate remedial action.

“We appreciate your comment in your May 25, 2021 letter indicating that “repairing the sewer lateral line is a last resort due to the resulting damage in existing infrastructure”.

“That being said, if the lateral is not functioning properly and blockages continue to occur, the lateral must be repaired.”

“As you are aware, another blockage occurred on May 8, 2021, resulting in the sewer backup into our client’s basement.

“…using a snake our client determined the blockage occurred the same distance as the previous blockage in September 2020.

“… our client is so concerned that further sewer backups will occur that he has had to install a portable outdoor toilet on his property. Surely, you cannot suggest that anyone is expected to live in this manner.

… “It is reasonable to expect that the Village will co-operate, and will conduct the necessary camera tests, and to do so in a timely manner.  We would request that you confirm that the Village will in fact, co-operate and conduct the necessary tests.  

“In the interim, we take the position . . . the Village is negligent if it fails to investigate the problem with the lateral, and repair the same.

“Therefore, we hereby put the Village on notice that legal action for damages will be commenced against the village, unless the Village takes appropriate steps to resolve this problem.”

Election issue

Johnsrude stated he wanted to make clear an issue related to nomination papers for the upcoming 2021 municipal election. 

He stated there was some question about the level of privacy connected to official nomination papers submitted to the village’s returning officer.

The OA stated, according to the Local Authorities Elections Act, the papers, once properly filed, essentially become public documents which the public are free to access at the village office under the supervision of the returning officer. 

Whoever sees the nomination papers, noted Johnsrude, are not bound by any rules of secrecy, which includes details on the forms such as the required signatures of five eligible electors.

First bylaw

Johnsrude approved a new records retention bylaw, and he noted this was a direction given to the CAO by the previous council. 

Plachner read out the bylaw and Johnsrude pointed out the bylaw was based on records retention bylaws from other communities, includes virtually any written document submitted to the village and also included electronic document management if the village adopts that in the future. 

It was noted that the bylaw includes a retention schedule.

The OA passed all readings necessary to bring the bylaw into effect immediately.

Second bylaw

Plachner then presented the CAO bylaw, and Johnsrude stated such a bylaw, that establishes and defines the CAO position, is mandated by the provincial government. He stated Morrin did not have such a bylaw. 

Johnsrude pointed out that the bylaw gives the CAO the authority to spend money in the event of an emergency that may not have been budgeted.

He passed all readings necessary to bring the bylaw into effect immediately.

Third bylaw

The CAO presented the new Utilities bylaw, brought forward after Johnsrude discovered in May that Morrin’s existing bylaw contained a mistake: councils do not have the authority, under the Municipal Government Act, to approve utility rates by resolution, rates can only be set through bylaw.

The new Utility bylaw made this change. He passed all readings necessary to bring the bylaw into effect immediately.

Dangerous machinery

Public Works Foreman Dave Benci, during his regular report, voiced concern about pieces of agricultural equipment on display around Morrin. 

Benci stated he’d been contacted by residents concerned about the condition of displays including a thresher, a swather and a manure spreader who pointed out the machinery has loose, sharp parts that could fall off. 

CAO Plachner stated that kids tend to play on and around the displays and the equipment does have sharp, rusty parts.

Benci stated he contacted the local historical society for advice and he came to the conclusion that at least one of the displays, the thresher, was beyond repair and probably should be removed. 

He stated the thresher has been on display for about 50 years. 

Benci also stated he preferred Johnsrude instruct him by resolution in case residents get angry that the displays were removed.

OA Johnsrude noted if the display was donated to the village, the donors may be offended that it was removed unless they were notified first to which Benci stated he would need to look into that. 

Johnsrude asked if the displays could be fenced off, to which Benci responded the displays still require grass cutting and their condition is still dangerous to village staff. 

Staff will report back with more information at the August council meeting.

Financial report

CAO Plachner presented the financial report as of June 30. She noted a few adjustments need to be made due to grant applications. 

She also stated that as of July, 2021 the 10 per cent increase in utility bills will be applied.

Johnsrude noted taxes have been levied and Plachner stated that property tax payments have been coming into the village office in a steady manner.

Public Works report

Benci stated during his regular report the bulk water station is up and running.

He also noted there was a power supply issue at the water plant recently. A temporary solution has been found to maintain water pressure while the issue is located.

He also stated tenders for the emergency pump for the water station will go out by the end of July.


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.