Kneehill County says residents need to get involved in water system talks

Written by Stu Salkeld

Kneehill County councillors want more information from their staff and directly from “Three Hills east” area residents before moving forward with any water system work. 

Councillors had an intense discussion at their July 20 regular meeting on the issue.

Council heard a report from John McKiernan, manager of environmental services, on water delivery options for residents who live in the county east of the Town of Three Hills, and he noted council passed a resolution that staff do so. 

McKiernan’s report listed five options for council to consider, reminding councillors the county recently conducted a mail-out public consultation on this issue.

Option A proposed the county “Engineer, construct, and operate a water system that encompasses the previously defined Three Hills east area” with a price tag of up to $11.2 million. 

Option B proposed the county “Engineer, construct and operate a water system that services only the positive responses from the survey that was administered” with a price tag not that much different from option A at up to $8.3 million.

Option C proposed the county “Engineer, construct and operate a stand-alone bulk water station for the residents in that area to have a place that potable water is available” with a price tag of up to $3.2 million.

Option D proposed “Water delivery provided by the county” with the cost of a truck up to $300,000 plus other costs. 

Option E proposed “Water delivery provided by a contractor” which McKiernan noted could cost up to $350 per trip based on the county’s previous experiences.

Councillors discussed the pros and cons of certain options such as a cistern, ups and downs in demand, water quality affected by sitting in tanks, staff or contractors called out at the last minute and others.

Coun. Debbie Penner asked how many residents in that area returned the survey. 

McKiernan stated he didn’t know the exact number but the county sent out about 72 letters and got back about 36, with about 75 per cent of those stating they wanted a new water system of some kind.

Coun. Ken King stated he believed if the county started a new water system many more people would become interested in it if they knew it was a reality. 

He stated it was not unreasonable to initially consider subsidizing the system and aim for eventual cost recovery.

King noted, however, the survey response wasn’t strongly encouraging that residents even want a new water system.

Coun. Jim Hugo stated he would like to see a water line out there or at least a reasonable way of improving the quality of water available to residents.

Coun. Faye McGhee stated a great number of residents in her division also want access to better quality water and this issue should be looked at so it is sustainable for the entire county. 

McGhee stated she was in favour of a new system but more public consultation was needed, perhaps a town hall meeting and Coun. King agreed more input was needed from those residents.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock, stating option B should be off the table and looking at option A, stated $11 million divided by 40 connections would be fairly expensive, roughly three times per riser of what has been done elsewhere in the county. 

“I can’t justify spending $275,000 for a connection to a residence,” said Wittstock.

A resident of the area was present at the council meeting and spoke about the bad quality well water east of Three Hills and that he’d like to see a permanent solution.

McGhee stated door-to-door consultation wasn’t appropriate, as the county already conducted consultation, and residents needed to get more involved. 

Coun. Wade Christie stated that with up to four options there may be too much data to discuss through a door-to-door approach.

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen stated residents probably needed more tangible information before they could commit to a new water system, and a town hall style meeting would probably work.

Wittstock stated the county needed more details about the various options before any public consultation could be conducted. 

Councillors then chose through resolution to narrow the options down to A, C, D and E. 

They also decided through resolution to ponder public consultation options at a future council meeting after staff returned with more details about each option.


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.