Stettler County Meeting

The annual review of Agricultural Policy 2.4, Control of Clubroot Disease in Canada was approved at the regular County of Stettler meeting on November 20, 2013 with no changes from last year.
Quinton Beaumont, Director of Agricultural Services, highlighted the importance of managing and controlling Clubroot disease.  Last year was the first year Clubroot was identified in the County and involved three quarter sections.
In 2013 an additional quarter section has been identified for a total of four quarters.  Adjacent counties, Lacombe, Red Deer, Flagstaff and Camrose have all identified some Clubroot disease. Beaumont said Clubroot in this area is considered low risk because of the different type of soils than those areas around Edmonton, which have a lot of issues.
A landowner whose quarter section has tested positive for Clubroot is notified with a written legal notice. It prohibits the growing and cultivation of canola, mustard or any other crop susceptible to Clubroot infection for a period of five years, plus other precautions that must be followed.
Landowners in a radius around the infected area are notified in writing that Clubroot has been identified in the area but the exact legal location is not given.  Last year 213 letters were sent out to adjacent landowners.  “Letters have not yet been sent out for the one quarter identified this year,” said Beaumont, “but will soon be.”
“Why is the legal land description for Clubroot-positive quarter sections not published,” asked Councillor Dave Grover. “Why is it a big secret?”
Grover argued that contractors who perform services on rural property, e.g. fertilizing, should know ahead of time so they can take precautions.
“We have to respect the farmers’ rights to their land,” said Beaumont in response. “If Clubroot is identified, it then becomes the landowner’s obligation to follow the guidelines placed on them by the County in accordance with provincial legislation.
Beaumont was adamant that it mattered not whether Clubroot was publicly identified or not, all industrial or agricultural equipment when moved from one piece of property to another are required to be cleaned and sterilized, no exceptions.
“It’s a touchy issue—ratepayers come down on both sides of the issue,” said Councillor James Nibourg.  The other side of the coin is public identification has significant financial consequences for the landowner.
Beaumont is confident that his department is aggressively managing Clubroot disease through testing and working closely with owners who have inflected fields.

Golf course
“It’s a jewel, let’s try to bring it back”, said Gordon Grant as he made another passionate plea for County Councillors to forgive taxes on the Pheasantback Golf and Country Club. A grant bought the property for $500,000 in July 2012.
“This golf course is more than a business, I bought it for the community. I’m working and doing things for the golf course at no charge as is Don Peters.  I’m not taking anything out of it nor do I intend to, I don’t need it for my livelihood.  But I can’t continue to run it if it constantly loses money. I’ve cut operating costs and I’m looking for an $8,000 break on 2013 property taxes. I haven’t sold any memberships for next year, until I know if it can survive,” said Grant.
If not sustainable, Grant would look at having it re-zoned for other uses.
“I’m looking at it as a business,” said Councillor Greggory Jackson. “Other seasonal operations can also have bad financial years.”
“We want to help you in the best way that we can, but a tax reduction isn’t the best option for the County,” said Councillor Nibourg.  “There are other options such as applying to access Rural Development Funds.”  “Forgiveness of taxes is a tough one because we set a precedence,” concluded Nibourg.

Church expansion
A delegation from the Erskine Evangelical Free Church came before Council to explore options to expand their building on its current site and provide the required parking spots. They have a growing congregation and would like to expand the sanctuary to hold between 350 and 400 people.
Various boundary adjustments and set-back relaxations were discussed. It was agreed that the church would draft a proposal and work with the Planning Department to see if something was doable.  The church will meet with adjacent landowners. The other option being considered is a new location entirely.

Snow plowing
With the cost of overtime for snow removal in Donalda adding up, a motion was passed that Administration investigate pros and cons for contracting out some of the snow removal during a large snow event.  The motion passed (5 – 2) with Councillors Jackson and Grover voting against the motion.

Cheque refund
In reviewing cheques written by the County, a $2,000 cheque to the Wildrose Party was queried.  Administration explained that the Wildrose Party was required to put down one half of the eligible recoverable expenses for their FIOP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) request prior to the County Staff starting the task. A party member had brought in $2,000 in cash. Subsequently, the County decided that with so many additional requests for the same information, the County would eat the costs and provide it free of charge to everyone. The result, a $2,000 refund cheque to the Wildrose Party.  The total cost to taxpayers to fulfill this FIOP request was $4,000, excluding the cost of the CAO’s time which cannot be charged under the Act.

Water line break
There was a break in the 300mm Shirley McClellan regional water line just downstream of Botha.  The break occurred due to improper installation of the original piping.  The pipes were installed with too much of an angle causing stress on the upstream pipe and fracturing it the full length.  The main was isolated in the leaking area and was replaced.
The Big Valley water line from the Water Transfer Stations is in service and the Big Valley Reservoir has been filled with river water.  A pressure gauge was installed in the County building to monitor the water pressures in the Village.

Next meeting
The next County of Stettler Meeting is Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 10 am at the County Office.

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