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Construction season ends in Ponoka County

The end of October marks the conclusion of much of the construction season for Ponoka County.

The end of October marks the conclusion of much of the construction season for Ponoka County.

Herb Schwingel, Public Works superintendent, provided county council with a report on the department’s 2015 activities at their Tuesday, Oct. 26 meeting.

Schwingel told council that nearly all of the projects the department undertook since the spring have been completed, including work on various roads, fencing and the West Lake boat launch.

Among the road projects that have been finished are - two miles of Range Road 234, access road at RR 261, one mile of RR 282, one-half mile of RR 14 and 3.5 miles of Township Road 435 between Highway 2 and Secondary Highway 795.

Council was also informed that paving still needs to be completed on the project at the intersection of Highway 771 and West Lake Road, that funding from the federal government has been received for the 5.5 miles of work needed to be done on Menaik Road (Township 442), as well as that the agreements are now in place for the Triple H Road (RR 283) 1.5 mile project to move forward and discussions are just beginning on the project planned on RR 12.

In addition, about 35 miles of road upgrades, repairs and paving projects were completed during the season as well as more than 210 dust abatement applications for rural county residents were done.

Schwingel also presented council with the recommended tender assessment for the Anderson Bridge replacement project over Lloyd Creek, with council accepting Formula Alberta as the low bidder at $513,000. With the county already having contracted out the engineering portion - at $103,000 - as well as the purchase of the concrete girders at $150,000, it means the project will come in more than $262,000 under what the county had budgeted for.

This is also usually the time of year the county decides to trade-in some graders and purchase new ones, but chief administrative office Charlie Cutforth and Schwingel both recommended council hold off and hope that next fall the market looks better.

“We normally rotate three graders out after having them in service for three years, but with the low Canadian dollar and the increased price on new graders, there is currently no benefit to flipping those units now,” explained Cutforth.

“New graders are now sitting at $555,000 and the ones we would flip are still under warranty for another two years and will have plenty of hours left.”

He added that if the trade-in was to be done now, the county would take a big hit to its equipment purchasing reserves. However, not doing it will have little effect as the unit are still under warranty, meaning they won’t be hit with any extra maintenance costs.

Council accepted the recommendation, meaning the county will look at trading in six graders next fall in hopes that both the used grader market and the exchange rate will rebound to make the deal more favourable.

News report reaction

It was learned through Cutforth’s CAO report to council that the news item by the Ponoka News reporting the county’s decision to step away from their contract for the enhanced RCMP position based in Rimbey attracted a great deal of attention by the people in charge of the federal policing force Alberta. Council had determined back at their Tuesday, Oct, 13 meeting that they would not be renewing the agreement with the RCMP when the contract concludes at the end of 2016.

Cutforth stated in his report that, “Because of the news story about the issue in the Ponoka News, I was contacted by K Division headquarters and have arranged a meeting with them for (Wednesday) Nov. 4.”

He added the meeting will provide the county the chance to discuss the numerous issues they have had, which include rising costs of the contract, lack of patrols and enforcement in the area as well as the lack of availability of the officer for use in the county.

Contributions approved

A pair of requests for funding from the county were passed at the meeting, but both were provided with a bit of consternation by council.

The first was the annual funding the county hands out to the Rimbey Municipal Library, which was asking for a five per cent hike for 2016.

Discussion ensued amongst councillors that the request seemed a bit out of line, considering the economic situation and the fact that Ponoka’s library - who the county also provides a portion of funding to - didn’t ask for any hike and are facing similar wage and other circumstances.

In the end, council approved the same amount of funding - $38,500 - as in 2015.

The other request came from the Mecca Glen Fundraising Society, asking for $1,500 to assist them in operating the heated shack at the community’s outdoor rink located right beside the Mecca Glen Elementary School.

Council unanimously approved the request, but expressed strong disappointment in the lack of will of the Wolf Creek School Division to assist in helping operate a facility that is used a lot by the school.