Kneehill County will look at a road ban exemption for “landlocked” farmers after councillors debated the pros and cons of such a move at their regular meeting May 11.
The discussion of easing the road bans earlier in the municipality than usual was requested by Coun. Wade Christie, who stated to his peers that he was concerned one group of people in particular within the agricultural community should see some relief.
Christie stated “landlocked” farming operations can’t get to gravel roads because they’re completely or mostly surrounded by paved roads that are banned.
Christie suggested that the standard 75 per cent ban be eased for landlocked farms, noting a 90 per cent ban as of May 1 would be suitable.
Brad Buchert, manager of transportation, sat in on the discussion and stated that farm machinery is exempt from the road ban anyways, but the ban still applies to registered vehicles. Buchert also pointed out Alberta Transportation has a policy for fair access to farms.
Buchert stated that relaxing the road bans earlier in the season would likely lead to more wear and tear on the roads which would in turn lead to more money needed for road maintenance and repairs.
Coun. Christie responded that it may be so, but when the weather and season allows farmers to go to work, they have to go to work.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen stated that councillors have the authority to set the standards for road bans but did agree with Buchert’s assessment that easing the road bans will likely mean more budget money needed for repairs.
He noted that the municipal road plan was due to come to council soon for discussion.
Coun. Glen Keiver stated he was opposed to exemptions because agricultural operations can damage roads too, and this has happened in his division.
Keiver stated that oil and gas companies would be expected to pay for any damage they caused and he felt the road ban system should stay the way it is.
Christie responded that even when all bands are on, there’s still traffic on the roads and he felt that easing the road bans to 90 per cent a bit earlier for certain farmers to get to gravel would be reasonable.
Christie further stated that he knows some people overload their trucks and that needs to be addressed, but farmers were there running their operations before the chip-sealed roads were there.
Coun. Ken King stated he sympathized with Christie and would support his suggestion if that’s what farmers would actually do, but King stated he felt that if the road bans were eased early, farmers wouldn’t use that to directly get to gravel, but rather would stay on the chip-sealed roads for their entire trip. Hence, King stated he was opposed to a general exemption for agricultural operations.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock stated he would probably support an exemption but not for an entire road, just the first access to gravel. The reeve added that he could see such an exemption being tough for the peace officers to enforce.
Coun. Faye McGhee stated she wanted to have reasonable rules and if a lot of people are ignoring a bylaw, then perhaps that bylaw needs to be examined to see if it’s reasonable in the first place.
Coun. Debbie Penner stated the 75 per cent road ban can really have a serious impact on an agricultural operation.
Buchert added that a road-use agreement for landlocked farmers may work in this situation.
Coun. Christie made a motion that county staff develop a road ban exemption for landlocked farmers and return to a future council meeting, which was passed.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter