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Drought, school closure big worries for SW municipalities

Posted on June 30, 2015 by Maple Creek

By Marcia Love
The drought-like conditions, worries of school closures, and new environmental regulations are areas of concern for many municipalities across the Southwest.
Mayor Barry Rudd reported on the Southwest municipal government meeting he attended last week during council’s regular meeting on June 24, where one of the big concerns was the province’s new environmental code, which came into effect June 1. It addresses issues such as air quality, water management and natural resources protection.
“They’re worried about the lagoons, they’re worried about the landfills the same as us,” Rudd said of the municipalities represented at the meeting. He noted there is concern of a push to close smaller dumps and push for regional landfills.
The new environmental code – the first of its kind in Canada – is what the province is calling a “results-based approach” to environmental regulation.
The mayor said the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) and Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) are partnering to bring their concerns to the government and arrange for a meeting with a Ministry of Environment representative during the fall Southwest municipal government meeting.
Education was also discussed by the municipalities. A Chinook School Board representative was present, and the drop in enrolments in schools was brought forward. The day of the meeting, Ashley Park School in Swift Current was holding a farewell celebration as it closed its doors for good, with students transitioning to O.M. Irwin School in the fall.
Rudd said MCCS was fortunate to have its huge renovation project completed, but did see a drop in enrolment after the flood. Total enrolments in Maple Creek were down 46 in the fall of 2010.
While there have been concerns from schools across the region there may be more closures on the way, the mayor said the school division indicated this is not its intention and the school division’s budget is fine. A lot of cutbacks have been done through attrition. In Maple Creek, this was done with the retirement of two teachers and another going on maternity leave, none of whom will be replaced. Concerns with drought-like conditions across the Southwest were also a big topic at the municipal government meeting. The RM of Maple Creek has been cutting its ditches, but has a water truck following closely behind should the dry grass catch fire.
The RM has also made an application to the government for drought disaster assistance.
“(It’s) for offsetting the cost of things like trucking, because there’s going to have to be feed brought in, but it’s going to be a long haul because there’s no feed anywhere,” Rudd explained. “Everybody’s in the same predicament.”
Other business
The frustration of a local resident who lost his business to fire was evident in a strongly-worded letter to the town.
Clay Wagner, owner of Cypress Cleaners, provided a written response to the utility bill he received from the town, which was brought to council by town administrator Michele Schmidt. Wagner used strong language in objecting to the second notice he received for an outstanding bill for his business.
The bill was for the laundromat, which burned down on March 14. However, according to Schmidt the bill for services is over 90 days in arrears.
When contacted by the Maple Creek Advance Times, Wagner did not wish to comment on the matter. It is unclear whether or not he believes he was being billed for services after the business was lost.
Schmidt noted staff at the town office deal with many complaints like this which use vulgar language on a regular basis.
The town continues to pursue the matter.
Council passed a motion to tender the demolition of a home in town that is no longer livable. The property at 423 Fifth Avenue was acquired by the town through tax enforcement.
“We are looking at demolishing the building that’s on there and selling the lot,” said Schmidt. “If a piece of property is in disrepair or is a danger, we do have a right to move on that in the municipality act.”
Property owners have the option to make the appropriate repairs before the town tenders it for demolition.
The property was one of two brought to the council table for a demolition order. The second one located on Pacific Avenue was noted to still be in good condition, but a basement wall has caved in due to damage sustained in the June 2010 flood. Schmidt said the mortgage company and the property owner have been notified of the town’s intention of demolition. The town is awaiting a response.
In the last year, the town has issued seven orders for demolition, several of which it continues to work on with property owners.
The town has received a complaint regarding speeding within town limits. A resident is concerned with drivers speeding down Marsh Street and ignoring yield signs at the avenues.
“The concern is kids walking to school,” Schmidt said. “What if someone’s speeding and hits a child?”
However, the town does not have the authority to enforce traffic laws, even when it had a bylaw officer. The concern has been forwarded to the RCMP.
The Maple Creek airport is becoming a busier place. The town received a request to develop a new hangar.
The airport currently has five lots with hangars on them, but is looking to add four more lots. Those who develop on a lot are charged an annual fee and cannot build higher than 27 feet above the runway.
Fees were established for the Maple Creek handivan. Residents will be charged $5 per passenger per round trip. For Cypress Lodge residents, a fee of $5 per round trip for the use of the van will be charged, with a caregiver required to travel with the passengers. Travelling out of town up to 25 kilometres will come with a charge of 55 cents per km. Only Cypress Lodge residents are allowed to travel beyond the 25-km limit. Lodge caregivers may drive the bus as long as they are listed on the town’s insurance as a handivan driver.
The town is also developing a street sweeping schedule. Street maintenance signs will indicate which streets are to be done the following morning. When the odd-numbered side of the street is being cleaned, residents are asked to park on the even-numbered side, and vice versa.
Notice was received from the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport that Broken Spoke Fine Arts Gallery at 208 Jasper Street has received municipal heritage designation.
A bylaw was passed by council to recover protection services costs when it comes to fires. This will allow the town to pass on the additional cost for firefighting services, such as a large fire in town requiring outlying fire departments to be called in to assist.
“Those costs for calling in those additional fire services would be passed on to the property owner,” Schmidt stated, adding this is for costs incurred for services outside of the Maple Creek Fire Department.
A public meeting was held during the evening for a bylaw to amend the zoning bylaw and allow a multi-dwelling establishment to be constructed on Fifth Avenue. This would open up the possibility of an apartment building being constructed at the site of the former town compound on the east end of Fifth Avenue.
No concerns were brought forward from the public, and the bylaw was given final reading.

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