Kneehill County council heard through the results of a survey that ratepayers wanted a proposed water project nixed. The survey results were presented by staff to council at the June 27 regular meeting of council.
The survey was referred to as the Three Hills East water project and the results were presented by Environmental Services Manager John McKiernan.
“Through a prior motion of council, administration undertook resident engagement to help determine the desire to construct a potable water system for residential use and its potential costs associated with it,” stated McKiernan’s report to council.
“Administration held an open house style event on March 8, 2023, and provided the available information through a PowerPoint presentation, brochures and a question and answer period.
Invitations to the event were sent to residents within the proposed water service area as well it was advertised. After the meeting, Kneehill County residents were able to fill out a survey that would allow the residents to provide feedback on the proposal and help determine the future direction of the proposed project.
“The survey was available to the residents from March 8 to April 10, 2023. After the closing date of the survey, administration attempted to contact by telephone all those that did not submit a survey.
“During the undertaking of the survey, the number of eligible households was determined to be greater than originally estimated. Originally, 85 eligible households were identified but after a more thorough investigation, it was determined that 95 eligible households were contacted or attempted to be contacted.
“Council had given prior direction that in order for this project to progress to the next stage of development, support for the project and the commitment of funds must be received by a minimum of 80 per cent of the eligible residential parcels located within the study area.
“Once the survey results were reviewed, it was determined that only 34 per cent of the eligible respondents were both supportive of the project and willing to commit to a $20,000 connection fee.
“In the survey, the residents were asked if they were in favour of a full flow water system, the proposed fee associated as well if they would be in favour of a bulk station being constructed in lieu of full flow system. Residents of bare parcels were also given the opportunity to provide any potential future use of the water system,” added the report.
During his presentation, McKiernan stated county staff made efforts to contact those residents in the Three Hills East area who didn’t complete the survey. While the survey was technically open to any county resident, McKiernan pointed out only those resident responses in the Three Hills East area counted toward the 80 per cent threshold.
The survey also stated that when it came to the bulk water station idea 49 per cent of the survey respondents stated “no.”
Reeve Jerry Wittstock stated he was concerned about comments in some survey responses that “not enough information” had been provided about the water system idea; the reeve pointed out he felt county staff presented a lot of information and that when engineering estimates are involved the exact cost is sometimes only revealed when a tender is released.
Coun. Wade Christie agreed, noting Kneehill County included enough information about the project for residents to make a decision.
Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham stated she spoke to residents in the Three Hills East area and felt they are, in fact, in support of the bulk water station idea but didn’t include those comments in the survey as they were worried their comments might be taken the wrong way.
Machell-Cunningham asked if MLA Nathan Cooper had any input on the survey. Staff noted they received no response from the MLA.
Coun. Ken King noted only 34 per cent of people were willing to commit to a water system which was “well, well below” the 80 per cent threshold Kneehill County selected. King also pointed out bulk water is available in the Town of Three Hills and wondered if there was an advantage to Kneehill County pursuing another such station, adding the majority seemed solidly against the bulk water idea.
Councillors voted 5 to 1 in favour of Kneehill County informing landowners of the Three Hills East area no water project will proceed due to lack of support from area residents. Machell-Cunningham was the lone dissenter.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter