Councillor George Veheire
It is hard to believe that a year has gone by so fast, so the time has come to let you know all the goings-on from my perspective in Ponoka County especially Division Three. We had a good year with lots of road construction, upgrading, oiling program etc. I will touch on these items through my column.
The first thing that council achieved was our budget and many things were difficult to nail down. As for example our gravelling costs, high cost of fuel, and road construction, but we did overcome the difficulties and passed our budget with no increase in taxes. If your taxes increased, it was because of the assessment on your property, not the mill rate established by council. I am proud to say that we maintain the lowest mill rate in the province.
The total budget for 2008 was $24,928,364. Included was the trade in of one gravel truck and the purchase of a new grader and loader scales. We do a constant review of our graders and have an excellent recovery policy with Finning that allows us to trade one or two graders as the hours on the machine dictate to be traded for new ones. We purchased a new grader to create a new area so that now we have nine grader areas and one new operator. This allows for each area grader to maintain about 110-120 miles of road. I personally believe that this has made a huge difference in the quality of our roads.. Add to this, the fact that we had budgeted more gravel to be used on our heavy traffic roads (to the extent of 250 yards per mile). It was a great improvement. We purchased loader scales for our loaders so that we have an accurate accounting of the gravel being hauled from our gravel pits. Our road construction went very well with completion of 16 miles of road in the County. In Division Three we re-constructed 6.5 miles of road with cooperation of the weather. We now have great improvements in Division Three.
Council passed a motion to discontinue snow plowing of private driveways. Exceptions will be left up to the individual Councillor and grader crew.
The upgrading crew took care of six miles of roadwork in Division Three and I have been monitoring the previous years road upgrading and projects and they seem to be standing up very well to heavy traffic. Across the County we did 44 miles of upgrading which will help our graders. We have improved the way we upgrade a road. We paved six miles of the Calumet Road and for 2009 year the plan is to pave 4.5 miles of the Meadowbrook Road. The tenders should go out in February. The total cost to re-construct Hoar Road was $646,633 and for Dakota Road was $477,817. These roads we built by the hour which seems to be very cost effective compared to the prices paid in other counties. If anyone wants a breakdown as to these costs, phone me and I will give you the details.
We are presently working with Alberta Infrastructure and MLA Ray Prins on construction of secondary highway 604. I believe that they now have all agreements in place. As for secondary highway 771 construction, the province is moving ahead but will take some time, as the agreements for right-of-way are not all signed. I am still asking that the province consider looking at 795 for the 7 miles south of 611 to the cemetery corner. It is my understanding that secondary 795 will be considered for 2009 from highway 13 to highway 611. For 2009, the Key Road is on the construction program with the start to be from Elkhorn School, three miles. We may look at the rest of the road to secondary 792 when we set our budget.
Our biggest challenge was to bring our Municipal Development Plan (MDP) up-to-date. This had not been done for the past 10 years and with the demand that our ever-changing municipality places upon our decisions, it was needed. We hired West Central Planning to help and as many of you know, a new MDP was created with a lot of input from you. This plan is available on our website or can be picked up at the County office.
The Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) is a fund created by the provincial government to help municipalities for the next 10 years. For 2008-2009 we received 1.5 million and for 2009-2010 we will receive 1.9 million. MSI funding is based on several fronts including population, assessment, etc. We are using this for infractucture such as roads and also some funding for the Town of Rimbey, Town of Ponoka, ie. Recreation, roads and also the new Ponoka Ag Events Centre. As to the new Ponoka Ag Event Centre, we have agreed to fund the operation on a shared basis with the Town of Ponoka for the first three years only. After that the centre will have to operate on its own. The County representative on the new board of the Ponoka Ag Events Centre is Reeve Gordon Svenningsen.
I was appointed by council to several boards on your behalf which are Rimoka Foundation for both Rimbey and Ponoka, Seed Cleaning Plant, Ponoka Community Advisory Committee (which is under review) and the Municipal Planning Commission.
Looking ahead for 2009 it is budget time again and I am hoping that there will be some funds to commit to our reserves. We have a new 10-year road program in place and the down turn in the economy has given us some breathing room when it comes to new subdivision requests.
One issue that will be upcoming will be our oiling and calcium program for County roads. In the 2008 fiscal year the actual cost of this program was $173,000. The question will be whether we will continue to subsidize the program or ask landowners to pay the full cost.
If any of the ratepayers have any questions about my column, please phone me and I will be glad to answer your questions. Phone 403-783-2589 or 403-350-8395.
Until next time. Your councillor, George Verheire.