Kneehill County approved a road ban exemption system to accommodate the agricultural industry during spring thaw times and other wet weather. The decision was made at the Feb. 8 regular meeting of council.
Councillors read a report by Director of Infrastructure Mike Ziehr which noted last year council discussed the possibility of giving the agriculture industry more leeway during spring road bans.
At that time it was noted some producers could essentially be landlocked onto their property by road bans so council instructed staff to bring back some options the municipality could employ to help producers.
Ziehr began his presentation by noting road bans are used across the country in the spring and other times of wet weather to protect infrastructure from suffering damage.
He also stated Kneehill staff looked at how other municipalities handle this problem.
Of the three options staff developed Ziehr stated the first one was to use the tools placed inside Kneehill County’s recently revised and updated Traffic Control Bylaw.
The bylaw was updated and approved by council in September 2021 and includes a section which gives the chief administrative officer (CAO) authority to allow some road ban exemptions not just for the agriculture industry but for anyone.
Ziehr stated this option was the staff recommendation and added that the exemption would be similar to a road use agreement but warned that any time a road ban exemption was granted there would be a risk of road damage.
The second option identified by staff was in essence a full exemption for the entire agriculture industry, and Ziehr noted some municipalities take this approach.
However, the director of operations stated he would hesitate to support this as the risk to infrastructure would be heightened.
The last option was somewhat similar to option #1 but granted primarily the agriculture industry certain road ban exemptions from their point of origin to the nearest ban-free route.
Ziehr pointed out this approach is similar to the way Alberta Transportation handles agriculture traffic during road ban season. He added that he also did not recommend this approach because of the risk it posed to county roads.
Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham stated she felt the farm community would be mindful of taking care of the county roads.
CAO Mike Haugen noted that when this topic was broached in 2021 the Traffic Control Bylaw had not been revised and the new sections could address the farm community’s concerns.
Haugen also pointed out damage to a chip sealed road can run in the millions of dollars. Haugen stated a new policy for road ban exemptions could define how the process would work and that councillors would have final say over it.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock noted that springtime weather can vary greatly and option #1 seemed versatile enough to handle a fluid situation.
Councillors unanimously approved option #1 for handling agricultural industry road ban exemptions and also unanimously directed staff to develop a policy for such exemptions.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter