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Roads top concern at county AGM

Only 40 ratepayers take in April 26 event

May 01, 2012 06:00 am | By Les Dunford | The Westlock News

Roads was the main topic on the minds of ratepayers attending the Westlock County annual general meeting at the Westlock & District Community Hall April 26.

Road conditions, road grading, road snow plowing, road dust control, road graveling … all were brought up during the question period by several of those attending the AGM, plus a few other questions.

Only 40 ratepayers, or about 0.0052 per cent of the county’s 7,644 residents (2011 census) were in attendance.

The meeting began with the nomination of Howard Ringstad as chairman, followed by the presentation of the auditor’s report by Tina Viney of Westlock Chartered Accountants Shoemaker, Viney & Friesen.

She took ratepayers through the report, page by page, giving a detailed explanation of various county financial dealings of the past year. Looking at the overall picture, she stated the municipality is well within debt limits prescribed by Alberta Municipal Affairs.

In her closing comments, her main message was the county has done a good job of managing its finances in 2011.

During question period, Wayne Forbes asked how Westlock County tax revenues compared with other municipalities. CAO Ed LeBlanc replied they are comparable with other rural municipalities with similar assessment.

Calcium versus oil as dust control on sections of county roads was one of the “road” topics.

Ringstad said he is an advocate of oil, not calcium.

“Calcium doesn’t do any good, and on my road, where it is used is the roughest stretch,” he said. “It just doesn’t work.”

Ratepayer Stan Schmode echoed those sentiments.

“Calcium does not work. I have a stretch of road with oil, and after six years, it still doesn’t need work.”

He said the county should use oil, but make sure it is good oil.

Reeve Charles Navratil promised dust control will be debated, but is a controversial issue with councillors. He suggested the county will use oil, if that is what ratepayers want, but warned the cost is way more than for calcium, which is why it was used instead of oil.

Ratepayer Richard Edwards asked if there were any cost savings of gravelling roads in the winter, and also questioned the quality of gravel, or sand, as he suggested.

The reply was the cost is indeed cheaper for winter gravelling, as it has to be stockpiled in the county and reloaded for summer use.

Ratepayer Fred vandeLigt later said he didn’t think winter gravelling worked at all.

Road conditions was also a major topic with several ratepayers. Ratepayer Dennis Drake stated one road in Div. 5 near Bouchard Lake was impassible for eight days. He said several roads need gravel, and most in his area are very rough. He pointed out roads in Div. 6 are much better.

Ratepayer Ed Houle swung his question in an entirely different direction, wondering why the mill rate in Westlock County is five times higher than Barrhead, but on the road side of things, suggests the county needs better grader operators.

Ratepayer Keith Sterling suggested from his observations, grader operators need to slow down.

Schmode also questioned the use of GPS on the graders, and thought perhaps having them with the graders really wasn’t helping.

Ratepayer Don Petryshen commented he felt poor road conditions this spring was more a result of the kind of weather we have had than on maintenance.

There were miscellaneous questions on the airport lot development, the use, or abuse, of good farmland for acreage developments, turning lanes off Highway 44 into the county’s industrial park, and if and when a byelection will be held to replace Coun. Maureen Kubinec, who was elected as MLA for the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock riding just last week. The answer to that was yes, and would be discussed at the May 8 county meeting.

In his final comments to close the meeting, Ringstad said he felt overall, the council and county employees were doing a good job overall. Ratepayers at the meeting agreed with a good round of applause.

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