Friday, March 30, 2012

Village Updates: Sewer Lines and Snow

Sewer lines and snow removal were just two of the topics we talked about at last Monday's Council Meeting.  It was that morning that Premier Redford enacted the writ and called an election for April 23.  Mayor Rowe was obliged to ask for a leave of absence while he campaigns for that election.  I am now Acting Mayor until April 23. 
  • Sewage:  Good news, our Public Works foreman reported that the revised pumping system at the sewage lift station (behind the seed cleaning plant) was installed and is working perfectly!  We also learned that the village has received a grant to twin the sewage force main from the lift station to our lagoon system on the east side of Highway 9.  Both of those things will help prevent sewage back-ups at the lift station during high water flow events.
  • Snow Removal: Council also passed a bylaw that will permit the village to shovel off snow covered walks if the resident of the adjoining property hasn't done so within 48 hours of the end of the snowfall.  The cost of the snow clearing would then be assigned to the property owner.  It was passed unanimously.
  • Water Truck Repairs:  Public Works repaired and cleaned up the old truck they use to water the trees and flowers throughout the village each summer.  The old truck looks much improved.
  • Sidewalk Replacement:  Council started discussions with Public Works on which sidewalks in the village need replacement.  If you have any ideas on this subject please contact me through this blog or phone the Village Office at 403-947-3774.  Remember we only have a small budget to work with and we would like to avoid a local improvement!
  • Census Shock:  We were very surprised to find out that the Federal Government has declared that the Village of Beiseker has actually lost citizens since the last census in 2006, dropping from 804 to 785.  This will cost the Village when we apply for "per-capita grants"!  But it will also save us money when we have to pay for a service based on our population.
  • Water Meter Installation:  The installation program for our new water meters is winding down.  These new meters should help us account for most of the water we buy from Aqua 7.  Something I found most shocking was that some of the old meters had been bypassed by the property owners!  That means that property would have been only paying the minimum amount for their water!  In my mind that's theft!  I don't know who the culprits were and I don't want to know, but the new meters are tamper proof!
  • Budget Talks:  The water loss problem will the biggest hurdle for council while they prepare the 2012 budget.  Tens of thousands of dollars worth of water was not accounted for.  The Village bought the water but did not sell it!  Paying for that lost water is going to impact our 2012 budget.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dirty Politics

Listening to the rhetoric coming from all political parties during this election campaign, I find it hard to believe that many of these same folks are going to be our government in a few months!

I hear the leaders of the two front running parties take shots at each other.  Do they realize that they will be facing each other across the Legislature floor?  One will be Premier and one will be Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition!  I wonder if they really understand that.

Our homeless Fire Department

As you know the roof of our fire hall was severely damaged during that windstorm late last year.   Our insurance company has decided to dismantle the old firehall and replace it with a new building!  Cartel Energy Services, an oilfield servicing company based here in Beiseker, allowed us to use their building to park our firefighting trucks during the very cold months.  We would like to thank the Cartel folks for their help.

However, the Cartel folks have a business to run and our firetrucks were getting in the way.  At the meeting last Monday, council decided to move the trucks from the Cartel shop. 

But where would they go?

We investigated the possibility of parking them in the arena but that proved impractical because of the weight of a firetruck full of water!  We certainly didn't want to damage the arena floor.  We have decided to park the trucks back in the old firehall.   Of course, the building cannot be used for storage of fire gear or fire department meetings, but the trucks themselves will be OK in there until we find a more suitable temporary home for them.  Now the weather is warming up, we don't have to worry so much about the trucks' water tanks freezing.  The arena folks have allowed us to store the smaller firefighting equipment in there over the next few months. 

I would personally like to thank all those who have come together and are working so hard on the problem to find a suitable solution.  Hopefully in the next few days we can find another temporary home for our firefighting vehicles - We certainly don't want to hold up the removal and replacement of the old firehall!  Stay tuned on this one, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Water - Public or Private?

It has been the plot of dozens of old Westerns; the evil villan rancher cuts off the water to all the poor but decent folks down in the valley.  Our hero with the white hat comes to the rescue!  He outdraws the black hatted villan and gets the water flowing again. He usually gets the girl, too!  And everyone lives happily ever after.

That old plot is coming back to haunt us!  Should the collection, transportation and distribution of water to our homes be given over to private companies? 

That question is closer than you think.  There are companies here in Alberta poised to do exactly that.  Water systems would be owned and operated by private companies and water sold to users.  Governments don't have to invest huge amounts of money to build and operate these systems.  The governments don't have to worry about controlling water commissions or municipalities.  On the surface it sounds like a good thing.

But private companies have to turn a profit.  What will that do to the cost of water?  Who will have a say in policies and procedures?  The people who buy the water, or the company who sells it and its shareholders?

Other countries have tried to privatise water distribution with some pretty horrific results.  I recall one ridiculous experiment where the citizens were expected to pay a levy to use the rainwater which fell on their property!  I know that's a very extreme example, but it shows that these kinds of privatization projects can be easily derailed.

I personally believe that water collection, transportation and distribution must remain in the hands of the public through government run agencies.  I am going to ask every candidate I meet to tell me what their party's stand is on this very important subject.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Aggie Days!

Every spring the Calgary Stampede hosts an agricultural expo called Aggie Days.  This year we go on April 18 to April 22 in the BMO Centre at Stampede Park in Calgary. The primary purpose of Aggie Days is to show elementary school children in the city where their food comes from. 

I have been involved with Aggie Days for almost twenty years.  I first became involved when I was a classroom teacher.  I was amazed at how little the kids knew about the production of food here in Alberta.  Even kids in the rural schools I worked in, for the most part, had little knowledge of Alberta's agriculture! 

As more and more Albertans become urbanites, I think the importance of programs like Aggie Days grows!

I grew up in the city so my knowledge of Alberta's agriculture needed some help too!  I married into a farm family and my experiences on their farms (east of Granum, Alberta) helped tremendously! 

Over the years I have gently twisted a few arms here in and around Beiseker to help, too.  With the help of local producers we managed to create a beef presentation and a grain thrashing demonstration which are still a part of Aggie Days today.

Aggie Days attracts more than 10,000 elementary school kids with their teachers and supervisors to our Educational Component which runs Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  The weekend is Family Fun Days when over 25,000 visitors come down to the BMO Centre at Stampede Park to see exactly how Alberta's farmers and ranchers feed us.  Most of us at Aggie Days; organizers, exhibitors, and presenters are volunteers!

For the last three years, I've combined my love of aviation and my involvement in Aggie Days by bringing an aerial applicator (crop dusting) airplane from the Aero Space Museum into Aggie Days!  The spray plane spent its whole flying life over the fields of Southern Alberta.  When it was retired it was donated to the museum.  Now it helps teach young people that aerial application isn't as bad as some make it out to be. 

More on Aggie Days later,  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Village Updates: Fire Hall, Water, and Recreation Facilities Funding

Here's the latest updates on some issues around the Village;
  • Fire Hall to be replaced;  Our insurance company has decided that it would be better to replace our firehall building than to try to repair it.  The existing building will be demolished and a new building erected where it stood.  The new building will be slightly bigger and should work very well as our firehall.  There is still talk of constructing a joint firehall between here and Irricana sometime in the future, but Beiseker has to deal with the "now"!  The insurance company will take charge of the project and work should begin as soon as possible.
  • No update on Aqua 7 line shutdown;  We are still waiting for all the correct parts to be assembled and ready to go.  It may happen as soon as March 21 or later in the spring.  Stay tuned.  Also remember you will still have water service to your home and/or business but we will be asking you to conserve water during those days of shutdown.
  • Well water change-over put on hold;  Last Monday night Beiseker Village Council agreed to put plans to switch our water source back over to our wells on hold.  We agreed not to spend any more money on the feasibility study. 
  • Leak repairs and new water meters having a positive effect;  The Public Works efforts to detect and repair water main leaks and the installation of our new water meters has drastically reduced the amount of water unaccounted for!  Our new meters have proven to be extremely accurate and water users are now being properly billed for the water they use!
  • Rocky View County is contemplating giving Beiseker 20% less funding for recreation and cultural facilities here in the Village.  If this comes to pass it could affect user fees, hours of operation, and programs in facilities such as the Beiseker Arena and the Beiseker Community Centre. Stay tuned!

In the Trenches

At the opening session of last year's Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention, Calgary's Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, spoke to all of us gathered there.  He mentioned that the top level of government is the municipal level! 

I tend to agree with that.  Provincial MLAs spend their time pontificating up in Edmonton while federal MPs are billeted half a continent away in Ottawa.  Municipal councillors live and work in their communities!  They put less reliance on public opinion polls and more on opinions expressed by their neighbours this morning, face to face, at the coffee shop!  Municipal politicians are in the trenches with the people who elected them. 

What could be a higher level of government?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Municipalities Matter

Have you heard the new ad campaign, "Municipalities Matter," put up by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA)?

They note that for every tax dollar collected through income tax, GST, and other taxes, (except of course property tax) only ten cents comes back to the Municipality!  I've been crabbing about that for years!

The province has set up this "Us versus Them" attitude.  Every time a municipality, whether it be tiny like Beiseker or huge like Calgary, needs extra funding, they must go hat in hand to the provincial government and quite literally beg for extra funding.  That whole attitude has to change because after all it's our money!

It's no coincidence that these adds came out just as an election is imminent! 

You can view the campaign here;

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dangerous Precedent Set at Calgary Board of Ed.

I know it's none of my business really, but I have to comment on the Calgary Board of Education and their recent move to, in my opinion, muzzle its members during public meetings.  The board just passed a motion the other day that would eliminate the questioning of school officials in public meetings.  It will also eliminate bringing forward a point of discussion or a motion by a trustee in a public meeting without previous sanction of the board in a closed (in camera) session.  At least, that's the way I read it.

Sounds like they're setting up the system to hide something!  I believe that public business has to be conducted in public as much as possible.  In camera meetings* and discussions must be kept to an absolute minimum. 

I hope this move by the CBE generates an outcry from voters and taxpayers in the city!

* In camera meetings are conducted behind closed doors without a public audience, including media.  Only those holding elected office and those deemed "needed" are included.   No record or minutes are kept and no motions can be made.  Closed meetings are similar to In Camera sessions except records are kept and motions can be made.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Aqua 7 Water Shut-Off Update

The Aqua 7 Regional Water Services Commission is still shooting for a mid-March shut-down and repair of the water line east of Carbon.  All six municipalities drawing water from the system will be affected.  We're hoping for a March 14 start of repairs and a finish from two to five days later.

There are a number of factors at play here;
  • the weather (harder to make repairs in a spring blizzard!)
  • making sure we have all the correct parts to do the repairs
  • draining the line ( we have access to a new device which may make it possible to drain just a small portion of the line saving hours, perhaps days.)
  • refilling the line (that same device should make it easier to refill or charge the line once repairs are made.)
If we can't go ahead on the week of the 14th, we'll try for the next week; March 21st.

I can't speak for the other communities, but the staff at the Village of Beiseker will do all it can to inform its citizens when the water line will be shut down.  We'll still have water at every home in the village but we will have to conserve water for those few days while the repairs are made.  Beiseker has already designed a contingency plan in case the water shut off for more than three days.  That plan will likely involve trucking water in. 

Please stay tuned and keep an eye on the Village's jumbo-tron outside the village office and this blogsite for the latest updates.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Know I'm Plane Crazy

This blog was set up to deal with issues and concerns around the Village of Beiseker, however some of you have asked me about my little aviation business.  So, here's the scoop. 

I've been interested in airplanes and aviation for as long as I can remember.  I learned to fly in the late 1970s at the Springbank Airport.  For the last 30+ years I have been attending air shows all around Western Canada and photographing the planes. 

Twelve years ago I set up my small business selling photographs and Aero-Kards.  Aero-Kards are like hockey cards except they feature planes and pilots.  We have almost 200 different cards in print with another 24 coming out in a few weeks!  Our cards are sold at gift shops all around North America!  They are also sold at air shows and on line thru my website.

To find out more visit my website at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Water Boundary Solution?

Back when we were putting the Kneehill Regional Water Services Commission (now the Aqua 7 Regional Water Services Commission) together, the M.D. of Rocky View (now Rocky View County) suggested that their boundaries extend south to Highway 1 and west to the Queen Elizabeth II Highway.  All of us gathered in the old Acme Hall agreed that setting those boundaries out that far was a little premature.  We set the boundaries much closer to the NE corner of Rocky View with the understanding that they could be easily altered at any time to accommodate development within the northeast corner of the County.

Maybe it's time to revisit those old boundary proposals, again. 

Sending Aqua 7 water to the far south and west ends of Rocky View just wouldn't make sense.  Setting the boundaries at the two highways may just put Drumheller's Town Council at ease. 

It would then be a neighbour helping a neighbour thing.  Drumheller has already approved an Aqua7 water line to Kathyrn when and if it were needed!

Let me know what you think.