Stettler County ponders traffic count after residents point out health problems

Scollard Road resident Doreen Mappin (bottom row, middle) acted as spokesperson for a group of Stettler County residents who feel numerous problems with the gravel road demand at least dust control or possibly permanent pavement. ECA Review/Screenshot
Written by Stu Salkeld

Stettler County will take a closer look at a gravel road’s problems after a group of residents told council health and safety issues have become critical. The delegation was heard at the Jan. 12 regular meeting of council.

Scollard Road resident Doreen Mappin acted as spokesperson for a group of residents who feel numerous problems with the gravel road demand, at least dust control or possibly permanent pavement. 

Scollard Road is located in Coun. Dave Grover’s Big Valley Ward 2.

Mappin began by noting Scollard Road was recently narrowed which resulted in soft shoulders and when hauling a farm trailer Mappin stated she’s scared she’s being drawn into the ditch by the soft road.

Mappin stated the road has three to four inch gravel, which she showed to councillors with photos, at the same spot. Mappin stated lots of Scollard Road residents have complained of flat tires and other problems caused by the rough gravel.

Mappin also stated she was informed Scollard Road residents paid for dust control in the summer, 2021 which they shouldn’t have paid for; Mappin contended Stettler County and the M.D. of Starland should have paid for that.

Another major problem stated Mappin, is dust: she said neighbours told her they can’t sit on their own patios or use clothes lines because of dust clouds from Scollard Road. 

She said residents hesitate to drive on the road for fear of encountering a gravel or oil truck which throws up a wall of dust, describing the experience thusly: “…(a) virtual dust storm with no visibility for minutes, and I’m not exaggerating on the minutes…”, adding that if motorists stop, they’re vulnerable to being hit from behind.

She noted the farm community sees an effect on their livestock from that dust, including one family who told her they lost five cows to inhaled dust and her own operation has lost one bull, with two more animals ill. 

Mappin stated she’s spoken with vets who agree inhaled dust can cause a form of pneumonia in livestock.

Mappin stated she knows this better than most because she herself spent four days in the Stettler hospital last summer with pneumonia and found out excessive and prolonged breathing of dust can cause “dust pneumonia” in people too.

Mappin observed the heavy traffic comes from drivers using Scollard Road as a “cut across” to save time. She stated residents feel a traffic count should be conducted during the busy season when the road has its normal traffic so everyone can see what’s going on. 

Also, residents would like to see an oil-based dust control placed on the entire road or, ideally, pavement.

Coun. James Nibourg asked if there is a speeding problem on Scollard Road, to which Mappin responded she felt the bad condition of the road prohibited a speeding problem.

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy noted the municipality and Starland partnered on dust control last summer for Scollard Road and residents should have been reimbursed for that. 

Also, Cassidy stated there should only be groups of Starland trucks on Scollard Road and no other groups. She added that one section of Scollard Road is a valley and things seem to hang in the air in that spot.

Reeve Larry Clarke noted Coun. Grover has brought this issue to council many times but Stettler County has many gravel roads that all demand attention. However, he also added that more money was spent on Scollard Road’s dust control than originally planned.

Coun. Justin Steven asked how many gravel pits are in that area, to which Cassidy responded four or five depending on how you look at it. Stevens suggested looking at how much money those pits pay into the aggregate levy as that money is supposed to be earmarked for road improvements. 

Stevens also liked the traffic count idea and he stated that if staff could provide that information to councillors at a future meeting they would be better able to make a decision about Scollard Road improvements.

Mappin stated residents would like to see something done for 2022. 

“We need to be thinking of something before summer,” she added.

 

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.