Starland Seed Cleaning Plant exploring all options

Written by Terri Huxley

Starland Seed Cleaning Plant board members visited Starland County council virtually to go over the current situation the plant is in, as well as next steps.

In a turn of events, board member/agricultural fieldman Al Hampton shared that the bank put a small kibosh on their plans the day before which would have been the basis of the presentation for council.

Instead, the conversation and presentation were modified to reflect the new situation.

Board members were confident they could get something going with the large amount of forward momentum they have been receiving from the community.

Their goal of $1.4M in investment sarees and $857,000 in investor loans (total of $2,275,000) was missed by under half.

As of March 22, they had raised $1.1 million in investment shares and $100,000 in investor loans for $1.2 million.

The plant has now extended the deadline to purchase shares in the proposed new facility.

As of March 25, the plant board has signed on 71 farm investors plus all six colonies in Starland County are participating.

This equates to over 240,000 acres of cultivated land or 57 per cent of the land base in Starland County.

The board hopes to raise an additional $250,000 or more in investor share equity to be successful.

The board shared that they knew this was an ambitious project and requires support from a lot of different people including the county.

They asked council to consider working with the plant board to get this project going.

“I think it’s a spot for growth in the future,” said board member Cam Graham.

He added that the economic spinoff with other businesses who have considered building beside the seed plant and that this building alone could provide up to seven locally-based jobs.

Coun. Jackie Watts was concerned with the location chosen, the old plant building as well as access to municipal water lines, hoping it wouldn’t put strain on the village.

Hampton and Graham understood the concerns, going through each one.

For the location, Delia was chosen because it appealed to not only Starland County producers but also those to the east in Special Areas.

They felt if they moved any further they would lose this interest and in speaking with Nutrien Ag Solutions, there was talk for a few years to build a new fertilizer facility which would work well with the new seed cleaning plant.

This is still in the very preliminary stages as the company opted to build in Calgary first at the time.

“It’s not completely off the table yet,” said Graham.

As for the old plant building, Graham explained he ‘has plans for it’, hoping to convert it to a pellet making facility to create another revenue stream.

As for water access, he wasn’t concerned saying a well could be easily drilled.

The board has discussed delaying the project until the fall or into next year but the fear is rising costs and future appetite for investment by shareholders.

Coun. Murray Marshall who also sits on the board as chair said, “The movement we have had is so positive. I don’t think we will get the same momentum we have. We spent three years and gone this hard, it would be a shame to turn around now.”

Council accepted the presentation as information.

Morrin’s ‘redneck’ campground

Members of the Morrin Sod House Society/United Church came to council a second time in an effort to get the pull-through/group camping sites off the ground for this summer.

The space they are looking at is on the east side of the village on county land between Railway Avenue S. and the old rail line road, south of where the ATCO trailers used to sit at the end of Main Street.

Group camping would be however the visitors wish to set up while 10-12 pull-through sites would be set up.

They admitted the society is broke and want to start this campground in order to have a solid revenue source.

“What we are looking for is a redneck campground,” said member Ken Devalerola, referencing the minimal design and lack of services.

The members explained they have enough volunteers to make the picnic tables, fire pits and enough gravel to spread for the pull-through site as well as a truck to help load but needed permission in order to utilize this open space.

As volunteers, they do not want to be in any part of installing utilities to avoid any extra costs at this time.

The county had previously asked the group to get permission from the Village of Morrin but was not given a definite yes or no answer to their proposal.

Councillors also mentioned the space behind the arena where the campground could be but members shared that this area is always particularly wet being a low spot and this is where the water drains to once the arena ice is cleared out, making it a non-viable option.

Administration asked the society to send in an official letter of their request to put this in writing.

The county is willing to enter into a lease agreement for between five and 10 years but wanted the society to get a permit from the village as this land still resides within Morrin’s boundary.

Land lease tender

The re-advertised land lease tender for a half-section received a couple more bids.

Council after reviewing the bids passed a motion to award the lease to Duane and Kathy Christensen for $90.98/acre with conditions as they had the highest bid.

This half-section in the south-east corner of Starland has 302.28 cultivated acres and will be used under a five-year cash lease agreement with the county.

Procedural Bylaw

Council established their new procedural bylaw following three readings.

The document is meant to guide and dictate how council operates during council sessions.

One section was added since the last time it was viewed which spoke to the procedure when someone is out of order and how to remedy the situation.

Returning officer appointment

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Matthew Kreke is stepping down from his role as returning officer come this election season.

Council passed a motion to make CAO Shirley Bremer the official returning officer for the time being. She will appoint deputy officers as well to help with this process as nominations have already begun as of Jan. 1.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review