Stettler County councillor: Pavement is 10 times the cost of gravel road

Written by Stu Salkeld

County of Settler council responded to an angry ratepayer’s letter by noting paved roads cost about 10 times as much as comparable gravel roads. 

The letter was read and debated by council at their Nov. 10 regular meeting, held one day early because of Remembrance Day.

The letter was signed by ratepayer Sandi Murray, dated Oct. 20, and read, “I would like to discuss my great concern about the two kilometre chip road from Sec. Hwy. #601 to the gravel road that leads to Ol’ McDonald’s Campground/Scenic Sands development.

“I heard that the council was going to rip up this two kilometre road because of concerns about potholes and put the road back to gravel.

“I agree the potholes do need maintenance and when these potholes were filled in this summer, it has made an improvement and is much appreciated.

“But my major concern is that you are thinking of putting it back to gravel. 

“The gravel roads in this area are terrible with continuous washboard ripples that make driving very hazardous. 

“Gravel roads create a lot of dust, so you are unable to see more than 10 feet in front of you, especially with large motor homes and trailers going up this road towards Ol’ McDonald’s campground, Scenic Sands development, Abbey Road development, Buffalo Sands development and Buffalo Meadows.

“All of the people that have property in this area pay the county land taxes. My taxes alone are $2,500 every year and we receive very little in services for our tax money.

“Gravel roads also need continuous maintenance. The money to turn it back to gravel, grading the road a number of times/year and adding additional gravel yearly. So there is no saving to the county.

“When you consider the amount of traffic this two km chip road handles yearly, it’s amazing you haven’t developed it further.

“So very disappointed in the short-sightedness of this council. Can the county reconsider and take a more practical approach of: filling in the potholes as needed since the economy is down, until an appropriate time to repave this stretch – to service the many people who use this road, pay high taxes to you, and bring in money to this community when camping and using summer cabins and yearly homes.”

Coun. Wayne Nixon responded first. 

“I wish people would stop calling us short-sighted because it pisses me off,” said Nixon. 

Nixon stated county council knows paved roads are much more expensive than gravel roads, stating a gravel road costs $100,000 per mile while asphalt is $1 million a mile, about 10 times difference, which Nixon noted is “huge.”

Coun. Cheri Neitz asked if the county should reach out to this ratepayer with a response.

Coun. James Nibourg responded, “We’re not short-sighted. That’s what it should say.”

Nibourg continued that Reeve Larry Clarke had already suggested a standard response to letters from the Buffalo Lake area rather than councillors responding on a case by case basis.

Clarke noted the county receives regular complaints from the Buffalo Lake area. 

“It is one of those places we do spend a lot of administrative time and council time on,” said Clarke.

Coun. Dave Grover agreed, saying, “…Seems to take up a lot of our time for four per cent of our tax base.”

County Chief Administrative Officer Yvette Cassidy stated staff regularly hear complaints from the public that they pay high taxes but don’t see a return on that.

Coun. Ernie Gendre stated the county should communicate to ratepayers that their taxes go to support projects throughout the municipality, not just in front of someone’s property.

Councillors accepted the letter for information, but it was stated at the meeting Coun. Neitz would respond to the ratepayer about her concerns.


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.