Morton Gravel Pit archaeologist discoveries amount to possible $225,000

An aerial view of the Morton gravel pit archaeological areas. ECA Review/Stantec
Written by Terri Huxley

An aerial view of the Morton gravel pit archaeological areas. ECA Review/Stantec

Starland County’s newest gravel pit expedition, the Morton Gravel pit south of Delia, has been home to several discoveries of yesterday’s past which has caused a stall in construction.

Public Works Manager Ken Menage gave the latest update to council as to estimated costs received to do this archeological study and extraction and more at the regular meeting on Wed. Sept. 9.

In a letter to Menage, Meaghan Porter M.A., PMP Senior Archaeologist and Senior Associate with Stantec proposed to complete the Historic Resources Impact Mitigation program on a time and material basis.

The estimated costs to deliver the entire proposed scope of work for archaeology total of $225,000. Broken down by area, costs are estimated to be: Area 1 at $105,000, Area 4 at $90,000 and Area 5 at $30,000.

Work in Areas 2 and 3 have been completed.

Stantec assumes there are no more than 500 artifacts that can be recovered during the Area 5 assessment.

Porter suggested they handle this as a staggered approach starting with Area 5 to allow for mining activities in 2021 as the other two spots are closer to the edge where the mining zone won’t be.

“We should be good to go next year,” said Menage. “There were just too many artifacts to let it go just yet.”

Council agreed to go with Area 5 but chose to include this $30,000 in archaeology costs in next year’s budget.

CAO report

A not-so-great start to the new building has begun with their first water leak that happened on Sun. Aug. 30.

CAO Bremer in her report was the first to discover the leak.

“I had to run up to collect a parcel for the neighbours and discovered some ceiling tiles on the floor and water trickling out in the printer/reception area. 

“We found the turn-off for the water main, drained the pipes and called it in.”

Civic Plumbing is working on a small list of deficiencies which will hopefully all be fixed soon.

“Our crews have finished the roadway and landscaping on the east side of our new facility as well as some more landscaping on the drainage ditch to the west and working on levelling out the piles of dirt to the south.

In other news, the ATCO office structure that was located at the far east end of Main Street has now been completely removed.

The CAO and other council representatives visited with the newly named Minister of Municipal Affairs, Hon. Tracy Allard on Fri. Sept. 4 in Stettler.

“She did bring a bit more optimism to the table in regards to the assessment review for oil and gas, but no definite promises yet,” she said.

“There was a large number of people in attendance delivering a strong message that although municipalities have always worked with oil and gas in the past, the proposed changes will cause tremendous devastation to Alberta municipalities viability as well as the smaller oil and gas companies.

“It was reiterated unanimously that none of the plans proposed will be sustainable for many municipalities and that the government definitely needs to do more research into this issue before moving forward.”

Ethelo public survey

Council recently confirmed they wish to work with Ethelo to conduct a public engagement survey.

Council discussed with Finance Manager Judy Fazekas about how to approach this in terms of what topics to include and what questions to highlight.

With the preliminary budget quickly coming together, Fazekas wanted to know what was most important to the community.

“In a situation where we are looking very closely at numbers and looking to where we are going to get our best bang for our buck – what do the citizens value? This gives them a voice,” said Fazekas.

It was asked that Fazekas come back with a draft of what the survey could look like so council can then add or change anything.

The need for strategic planning well into the future was also discussed.

With the downturn in oil and gas production, the county is being pressured to look at other alternatives to promote the area.

“A heavy reliance on oil and gas revenue means taxes could double or triple if we don’t get some economic diversification,” she said.

“There is lots of opportunities here, its just a matter of thinking outside the box.”

Getting a feel for what Starland residents most identify is a way to start facilitating this economic development.

For Starland, this could mean a heavier focus on agriculture like ag tourism and value-added agriculture or even green energy.

It was agreed they need to start and should utilize the busy main corridor from Calgary to Saskatoon which is Highway 9.

It runs east to west all the way through the county, starting at the Morrin Bridge up to the border connected to Special Areas.

An open house may be on the horizon but it was noted that at those functions the loudest people seem to get the most attention, leaving those who don’t feel confident enough to speak stay silent and lose that possibly different opinion.

Fazekas said that this survey is well worth $3,000 to get as many different viewpoints as possible using this even-playing field format.

A marketing strategy may also be used to get the word out.

“The survey is only as good as you set it,” said Reeve Steve Wannstrom.

Fox Coulee Solar Park

Council received an update from Aura Power on the Fox Coulee Solar Park.

Recently, the company has made some refinements to the project.

In July, they have performed an in-depth analysis on the effects of glare.

“We are happy to report that there is no high-intensity glare at areas of interest. We are also pleased to report that by making minor adjustments to the configuration of the equipment we could see a reduction in low-to-medium intensity glare,” the letter stated.

The installation will now incorporate a lower profile mounting system for solar panels which reduces the overall height.

The facility will also occupy the same site boundary and produce the same amount of electrical energy as the previous design but with a reduction in glare. 

The solar modules will still follow the sun as it travels through the sky, however, you might see some of the solar modules standing still in the fall and winter season so that they can continue minimizing glare.

Aura Power is expected to begin construction next spring as COVID stalled progress.

The Alberta Utilities Commission requires companies to give notice of construction at least three months in advance.

Municipal Stimulus Program

The Government of Alberta has asked municipalities to come forward with their ‘shovel ready’ projects to stimulate the provincial economy.

For Starland County, council approved the replacement of a short portion of the CLV waterline, estimated at $296,000 as their project they would like to suggest to the province.

This project would be for a troublesome portion of the waterline coming up out of the valley and will require to be replaced by directional drilling.

“It has been on our radar for years, but we have never had the extra monies to put towards the replacement. 

It has been repaired several times over the years and this small section is a much-needed repair/replacement,” said CAO Bremer.

If it is approved, they could see the Alberta government paying for most of the project.

Officer radio

Community Peace Officer Gareth Thomas came to council asking for a new radio system.

He currently uses his work phone but keeping safety and multiple dead spots for cell signal in mind, this new radio system can still be accessed in emergency situations.

Thomas also said he would then be able to possibly access RCMP signals so everyone can connect.

This portion is still in the trial stage across Alberta but luckily Drumheller is one of the test areas.

“He’s a one-man show and if something happens it may not be reasonable for him to be dialling on a phone that may not work,” said CAO Bremer.

“If this is his backup then it’s pretty cheap,” said Coun. Jackie Watts.

A motion to purchase the radio now for $20,800 was carried.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.