Morrin’s former mayor concerned about sewer lines, fees

The Village of Morrin regular council meeting March 17, with Official Administrator (OA) Harold Johnsrude speaking, at top (from left) are village Chief Administrative Office (CAO) Annette Plachner and Public Works Foreman Dave Benci. ECA Review/Screenshot
Written by Stu Salkeld

The former mayor of the Village of Morrin spoke to council at their regular meeting Mar. 17 to voice concerns about the state of infrastructure on at least one street in the community, along with some other grievances.

Howard Helton spoke to council as a delegation and appeared via Zoom as the council meeting was conducted over the internet. 

Official Administrator (OA) Harold Johnsrude noted Helton was welcome to speak for up to 10 minutes in accordance with the village’s procedural bylaw.

Helton began his presentation by referring to recent correspondence between himself and village Chief Administrative Office (CAO) Annette Plachner, noting he had contacted the village with concerns about sewer lines servicing 2nd Ave. North in the village.

In the correspondence, which was provided to the ECA Review, Helton requested information from the village’s lateral camera inspection of sewer lines on the avenue in question. 

He noted that in a council meeting in December 2018 some camera footage revealed laterals, which are part of underground sewer infrastructure, at a residence appeared to require replacement, and he wanted to see any other camera footage of other infrastructure in that area which revealed the same condition.

Helton stated that when he requested more camera footage from the village he was told that was possible but would require a $50 fee, and wanted an explanation for the fee as he stated the village’s fees bylaw contains no provision for this fee. 

The ECA Review examined the village fees bylaw and it doesn’t contain any fee of $50 for camera footage; no fee in the bylaw exceeds $25.

Helton also asked if Morrin property owners should expect nothing done until a problem occurs, including flooded basements, plus the possibility of litigation, which he stated has recently occurred.

The former mayor stated the village’s Public Works department noted all properties on 2nd Ave. North except one have the same sewer problem and Helton wanted to know if property owners are aware of this? 

Helton expanded his comment to ask specific questions about sewer services for residences #207, 209, 217 and 305.

Helton also requested clarification on the age of the sewer infrastructure in question, specifically compared to that under 2nd Ave. South. 

Plachner answered that the south infrastructure dates to 2011.

OA Johnsrude answered that the village has limited funds to do infrastructure work and the highest priorities have to be looked at first and that when roads are repaved the infrastructure below will also be replaced. He noted that his understanding is that much of Morrin’s sewer dates to the 1950’s.

Johnsrude noted the village is reviewing a 2017 engineering study of municipal infrastructure to develop a five year replacement plan keeping in mind the village’s limited funds.

Johnsrude stated the village was previously advised that it should be setting aside about $275,000 a year for infrastructure replacement, which the village didn’t do. 

Instead, noted the OA, the village relied on certain provincial government grants which are set to be cut back beginning in 2022.

Referring to the $50 charge for the camera footage, Johnsrude noted he himself at his own residence paid a $50 fee for sewer footage for his own peace of mind (he’s not a resident of Morrin). 

He added the village paid to get the camera footage which is the property of the village and provides a benefit to those who request it, hence a fee.

Helton responded that Morrin property owners should have free access to that camera footage as this issue could greatly affect them.

Johnsrude responded the village has a sewer policy in place that states if a back-up occurs, the resident must immediately contact the village. 

The OA couldn’t promise property owners an extensive report but noted he would consider Helton’s request.

Helton was cut off in the middle of his response to comments made by Johnsrude stating his 10 minutes was up.

 

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.