Town of Bashaw wonders if CN Rail ‘invoice’ is mistaken

Bashaw town council decided against simply paying an invoice sent to them by a large national railway company and instead is questioning if the bill goes against an agreement with the municipality. 

The issue was discussed at the Dec. 20 regular council meeting.

Councillors read a letter from CN Rail which included an invoice and breakdown of costs for work the railway company says the Town of Bashaw taxpayers are responsible for. 

“As you may be aware each year Canadian National Railway Company (CN) identifies the level crossings across its network which require rehabilitation (major maintenance) to maintain crossings that are adequate for the road users and for continued safe railway operations,” stated the letter signed by Kyle Bennet, public works officer, western region, and dated Dec. 6.

“CN has inspected the crossing located at (54th Ave, the original CN letter incorrectly identified it as 53rd Ave) and wishes to advise you, as the road authority at this crossing, that maintenance of the above noted crossing is scheduled for this summer as part of the 2022 Crossing Maintenance program.

“The maintenance work will include rehabilitation of the existing crossing in order to renew the supporting components of the crossing including the damaged rail, track ties, fasteners, removal and replacement of existing track ballast and removal and replacement of planking or pavement.” 

The CN letter went on to state the work would require closure of 54th Ave., including pedestrian traffic, and expected the town to follow section 102 of the Grade Crossing Regulations, which requires “necessary road protection measures.”

Also included was an invoice as CN stated, “… the (town) is responsible for 100 per cent of the costs associated with the proposed maintenance work.” 

The invoice listed a May 1, 1997 agreement which required Bashaw taxpayers to pay the $60, 830 cost of the rehabilitation.

Mayor Rob McDonald stated he didn’t remember the town ever being billed for maintenance work at that rail crossing. 

McDonald stated he thought the last work done there was after a derailment, and Coun. Bryan Gust estimated that was about 10 years ago.

The mayor added that if the town has to pay for the work, the town should have the option of finding its own contractor.

Coun. Kyle McIntosh stated he read the aforementioned May 1, 1997 agreement and it seems to state the town has the option to agree to pay the costs and that payment is not necessarily mandatory. 

McIntosh also stated that, judging by the work list, it seems some of the rehabilitation will be done within the right-of-way, which the town is not responsible for paying according to the aforementioned agreement.

McIntosh pointed out the work list included certain items like track ties which would be located on CN Rail property, not on the town-owned avenue.

Coun. Jackie Northey stated the tone of the letter seemed to be that the town is obligated to pay for the maintenance to the crossing. 

The CN letter observed the current fiscal environment in the county and noted, “Do not hesitate to contact CN to discuss payment options, if necessary,” it added.

McIntosh stated he would not support paying these costs until many questions he has have been answered by CN Rail. 

Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller suggested the questions be placed in a letter which she could forward to CN Rail.

McIntosh also suggested the letter be sent to the Battle River Crowfoot Member of Parliament Damien Kurek, since railways are a federal government responsibility, in case other communities are receiving similar letters.

Councillors unanimously approved sending questions to CN Rail and including the MP on the mailing list.

Interim budget

Councillors unanimously passed the town’s interim budget after a discussion. 

Fuller stated the interim budget is mandated by the provincial government and has to be approved before Dec. 31 for the town to spend money in 2022.

Fuller stated one thing that stands out at this point is increasing police costs; last year’s police cost hike was $23,572 and in 2022 it looks like the increase will be $31,407.

She also noted full budgets can’t be approved until the province provides certain assessment data and requisition amounts.


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.