County council appoints new PAECS member

County councillors debated over who should be the next member of the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society (PAECS) during their meeting

County councillors debated over who should be the next member of the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society (PAECS) during their meeting Feb. 12.

Reeve Gord Svenningsen has resigned from the board. “Work has to be done there to get things running smoothly,” he explained. “It’s kind of unfortunate to go in there with turmoil.”

Councillors met in a closed session with members of the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association Feb. 12 and Svenningsen feels the group might be agreeable to equal representation. “It had to be one of the two groups with the three partners.”

“It would solve a lot of problems if they would,” stated Coun. Gawney Hinkley.

Hinkley did suggest an alternate member should be nominated in case equal representation was agreed upon by PAECS.

Coun. Paul McLauchlin nominated Councillors George Verheire and Keith Beebe as an alternate to the board.

“They know how county works and they can speak to our interest.”

The nominees agreed.

Unsightly premises

Council asked to take action on an unsightly property. Located in the Elhorn Road/Usona area, neighbours have been complaining about how the property looks, explained CAO Charlie Cutforth. “The question was what are we going to do?”

One way to deal with the property is to require a commercial development permit be applied for and then bring that to the neighbouring homes. Since it is zoned as agricultural the owner is free to leave old vehicles on the property, Cutforth added.

Verheire did not feel the county should take any action. “It wouldn’t matter what we did on this property.”

The property owner is the one who makes the final decision on the property and the county cannot force them to change the zoning on it.

Councillors decided not to take any action.

Historical Society request

Ponoka County has more than $1 million in requests for financial assistance in 2013. One request came from the Rimbey Historical Society for $85,000. Treasurer Pauline Hansen presented councillors with a financial statement and highlights of activities in 2012. “It kind of gives a better description than last year, of the park.”

The group has an aging volunteer group and it is a challenge to complete regular maintenance and repairs.

Contractors are going to be needed to repair some sidewalks from funds donated by the county last year.

The society is looking at ways to drive interest.

“We’re trying to find and develop ways to bring kids there,” Hansen explained.

Strategic planning is underway for the society who wants to see an increase of users. To help with its operations the Town of Rimbey contributes $38,000, which goes mostly to administration costs. The town also pays for includes utilities and insurance amounting to approximately $84,000 for both.

The society volunteered at a casino last year and earned $28,000 from the work; $12,000 is left over and Hansen said the intention is to spread it out over the next two years as they work at a casino every three years. Any contribution from the county would be appreciated, she said.

Later in the meeting councillors decided to donate $40,000 to their cause.

Peace officer stats

Councillors received an annual report from Les Squires, peace officer for the county. Since Squires took the role last year he has been able to work closer with other enforcement agencies in the county such as the Ponoka and Rimbey RCMP detachments. “We’re kind of building a few bridges already since I’ve come on board and hopefully will continue.”

Reporting was down in 2012 mainly because of the transition to a new peace officer, explained Squires. “Apparently that took place since May of last year.”

Squires expects to see an increase in warnings and tickets issued but feels, “public safety comes first and enforcement is secondary.”

Coun. McLauchlin asked what measures Squires had in place for his own safety. “Your safety is important to us as well.”

A spot device has been ordered, which sits in Squires’ vehicle and the Radio Control Centre (RCC) in Edmonton knows where it is at all times. In an emergency situation Squires can use it to alert RCC of his need for backup and the RCMP is notified immediately.

A radiophone has also been purchased and it gives the officer’s queries instant answers from the RCC. “So officer safety is coming.”

County thanked for contribution

Councillors were thanked for their support of the Rimbey Fish and Game Association; the support came as a financial contribution to the group for $10,000 to repair the Open Creek dam.

“We came over to thank you in person for your donation to help repair the dam,” stated president Daryl Hunt.

A card and photo collage showing the work done was presented to councillors and tickets to their next appreciation supper were given.

Provincial bridge funding

The province is going to allocate funding to municipalities annually to help pay for repairs on old bridges, explained CAO Cutforth. “Based on their budget of $21 million, we’ve estimated that we would likely received $400,000 to $500,000 per year.”

However, a typical bridge usually costs $1 million to fix. To help municipalities with these costs, Alberta Transportation will allow them to save the money over a period of time.

Ponoka County has more than 235 bridges and that includes major culverts, which are considered bridges.

Of those bridges more 85 per cent of them are more than 50 years old, added Cutforth.

As long as the funding is stable over the years it will help municipalities plan. “Right now we’re purely reactionary and that’s not a good way to be,” he said.

Funds for playground

County employees at the Bluffton landfill have been setting aside aluminum to raise some funds. Over the course of 2012 the employees collected and sold $2,500 worth of the metal and donated it to the Bluffton playground project. “It’s outstanding,” said Cutforth.

New membership discussed

Councillors have tabled a decision to apply for membership with the Central Alberta Economic Partnership until more information is obtained.

McLauchlin feels there are merits to applying as a member, including access to information in an area structure plan on the Highway 2 corridor. “I like the idea of giving it a test and seeing if it works”

Cutforth was unsure what other benefits there are to being a member. “It’s really hard to evaluate positively or critically until you make an effort.”

It will cost the county approximately $3,500 a year. The county will speak with other municipalities who are members to garner more information about being a member.