Frustration evident at Stettler County meeting

Stettler County councillors ploughed through a packed agenda at their Apr. 13 meeting. Several delegations addressed council on a variety of subjects from the new shop to solar energy.

After prolonged discussion, both the Borrowing Bylaw 1558-16 for the new shop and the voter plebiscite were quashed. Council requested that administration bring back to council what options are left for the new shop for a special meeting scheduled Apr. 20 following the afternoon Municipal Planning Commission meeting.

Shop repairs higher than predicted
The estimate to bring the old public works shop back to useful life and up to code is $1.9 million according to WSP Canada’s Murray Steen, who presented a report to council. Steen walked council and the public in attendance at the meeting through the shop to see first hand some of the shop’s shortcomings.

Black mold in the pressed straw that insulates the building was visible where part of the interior wall had been pulled back. Several code violations from exposed electrical junctions to the lack of a proper crash door at the exit were pointed out.

The entire report of what is required to bring the shop up to code is available on the County of Stettler website.

WSP’s report did not seem to convince Coun. Ernie Gendre of the need for so many repairs. Gendre accused some council members of inflating and exaggerating the costs of repairs to the old shop and ‘hiding costs’ of the new shop from the public.

Gendre contended that council really doesn’t know precisely what needs to be done with the old shop.

Coun. Greggory Jackson responded that Gendre had the reports right in front of him of what needed to be done.

“We keep throwing a bandaid onto something that’s not going to change,” stated Jackson.

According to Coun. Les Stulberg, the old shop property is not zoned for commercial/industrial use. The road entrance to the shop has a weight restriction that the county must regularly violate in order to bring equipment into the yard.

Support for council
One county resident wanted council to know that not everyone is against the county building a new shop.

Kelly Armstrong appeared before council to read a statement in support of the shop and borrowing money for construction.

“We have known for a long time…years in fact, that a new shop is the plan. Four years ago in 2012 the needs assessment was done and since there have been a number of meetings with the public and in council discussing this issue. The new county building is actually not a new issue at all.”

Armstrong took issue with how the petition to stop the borrowing bylaw was circulated. Claims of exaggerated costs and increased tax rates distorted the facts, stated Armstrong, who commended the county for providing fact-based information.

Alternative approach
A group of local businessmen approached council to offer an alternative for the construction of the new shop.
Tim Unruh of Action Plumbing, Charlie Bagshaw of Bagshaw Electric and Darcy Klassen of Klassen

Construction offered a joint venture proposal to the county to act as general contractor for the new shop.

Both Unruh and Bagshaw stated they could provide services at less cost than the current general contractor although both conceded the work would likely take longer to complete.

According to CAO Tim Fox, considering another alternative would complicate the tender process and would require a legal opinion.

Sun shines on Alberta
Council took time out from debate in the council chamber to view a presentation by Grace Energy and Great Canadian Solar on the merits of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology.

Alberta has the distinction of being the sunniest place in Canada, receiving about 2300 hours of sunshine annually making it prime real estate for solar power generation.

Among the numerous systems the companies have installed, the Camrose Performing Arts Centre boasts a 130kw building integrated PV system and is currently the largest in Canada.

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