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Train whistle debate revisited, condition of crossing discussed

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Maple Creek

The train whistle debate has been reignited.

During its regular meeting on Sept. 10, council received a request from residents and business owners that the town look into silencing the CP Rail whistles as they pass through town. About 10 letters were submitted to council requesting train whistles not be blown.

“It’s people and businesses that operate right beside those railway tracks that have to listen to that 15 or 20 times a day,” said Mayor Barry Rudd.

The debate last surfaced just two years ago, when 273 residents voted in favour of keeping the whistle and 114 wanted it stopped. Before that, it was discussed in 2005. While council decided both times to keep the whistles, residents are again asking the town to reconsider.

The mayor pointed out that communities such as Gull Lake, Strathmore and Weyburn don’t have trains blowing their whistle on the way through.

“How long have they not blown their whistle and how many accidents has there been?” he said, adding that when a collision is about to occur the whistle is blown. “I think it’s something that we need to work on and pursue and check out the process.”

Train conductors are currently required to blow two long whistles, one short and one long again on both sides of town.

The town will be looking into the cost of insurance to stop the whistles, which is charged per crossing. It will then be brought back for public opinion.

Concern has also been raised about the state of the east railway crossing. Town administrator Michele Schmidt said it is not just residents, but also tourists who are upset about the poor condition of the roadway at the tracks, where they must cross very slowly and swerve around the rutted surface. She reported one tourist even wrecked his car while driving over it.

“I think it’s time that we sent a letter to CP Rail indicating how important it is that they monitor and continually maintain the railway crossings within the town limits,” she said. “It is causing damage to people’s vehicles, and we strongly suggest to these individuals that they contact CP Rail.”

The mayor noted CP Rail repaved the crossing not too long ago, but it doesn’t take long for it to deteriorate again.

Council agreed to write a letter to CP Rail requesting the issue be addressed.

A public meeting was held during the council meeting to allow taxpayers to discuss any concerns with the town’s intent to borrow $2 million. The $2 million will be used for the purchase and installation of a new lift station, gravity main, water and sewer services tie-in and sewer line replacement on First Avenue. The amount will be payable in 10 annual installments of $200,000 from 2015 to 2024, with an interest at a rate no greater than prime plus one per centum per annum payable at least annually.

No members of the public attended, and council passed the motion.

The new garbage truck will be arriving this week. The new garbage bins arrived this summer, with 64-gallon bins provided for residential pick-up and 300-gallon bins provided for commercial pick-up. The new truck has a lifting arm that the operator will be able to control from within the cab, allowing garbage pick ups to be done in a faster and more effective manner. It replaces the town’s 10-year-old garbage truck, which is in poor condition and recently required a new motor. To purchase the new truck and bins, the town borrowed $350,000, which will be paid in three annual installments of $123,424.23 from 2015-17, with a fixed interest rate of 2.832 per cent.

The town will be informing residents on the proper placement of their bins as well as offering them a chance to see the new truck and ask questions during a public meeting at the end of the month. The new truck will be in operation Oct. 1.

A company has been hired to complete repairs to several manholes around town. Top Shot Concrete Systems of Saskatoon will be fixing five manholes that require work done to the brick and concrete walls. The work will be done this year at a cost of $44,000, but the company agreed to have the town pay $10,000 this year and the remainder paid in 2015 with no interest. The town will budget for more manhole repairs in 2016.

OJ Pipelines has made its final $50,000 lease payment for use of town property in setting up a camp and warehouse for the Keystone XL pipeline project. The Alberta company was expected to set up camp in the spring, but delays in the Keystone XL approval have put this on hold. The project would bring over 500 workers to town. The lease was paid up to Sept. 30, 2016.

“This way if the project is activated in the spring or in 2015 or spring of 2016, then they will come back and look at renegotiating an extension to the lease agreement,” Schmidt said.

Currently, the land is being grazed by another lease holder until the company requires it.

Council Ellaine Hawrylak reported on the Maple Creek Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee’s recent meeting, where new drawings were approved for work on Luxito & Co. as part of the Main Street Program. The BC Cafe has also signed on to have improvements done.

Tourism co-ordinator Annie Dietrich submitted her resignation, effective Sept. 26, which council regretfully accepted.

After passing its water rates bylaw in March, council looked at establishing what the future increases would be for water rates. This was determined and integrated into the new water rates bylaw. Previously the town could only send its water rates in annually for approval by the municipal board. Rates can now be approved for three years, so the town has submitted the rates that will be in effect from 2015 through to 2017.

Council also passed a motion to have October designated as breast cancer awareness month.

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