County aims to ‘get most bang for ratepayers’ buck’

County of Stettler ended its year on a high with its efforts to provide services for residents at the best cost, but faces challenges ahead

County of Stettler ended its year on a high with its efforts to provide services for residents at the best cost, but faces challenges ahead in 2014 with the province off-loading costs to municipalities.

The county made a decision this year to contract out some of its gravel supply and placement.

“This will save county ratepayers millions of dollars over the life of the contract,” said Reeve Wayne Nixon. “We have also acquired gravel reserves both in our county and in adjacent counties. Because of the increasing costs of gravel, we have also tested some products that would prolong the life of gravel roads and we’ll assess the results as we go along.

“The philosophy of the council has been to get the most bang for the ratepayers’ buck.”

Another accomplishment for the County of Stettler in 2013 was the Shirley McClellan Water Services Commission constructing two water lines — one just completed to Big Valley, and another one to Donalda, which is almost completed.

Getting water to residents has been a priority, Nixon said.

The county built a waterline to Erskine for a reservoir and a truck fill to service the area.

“We have plans to construct a truck fill near the Hamlet of Red Willow,” Nixon said.

Tackling weeds was also on the county’s agenda in 2013.

“The Agricultural Service Board has completed Year 2 of a three-year plan to control problem or noxious weeds in our county,” Nixon said. “This coming year, they will concentrate on the north third of the county and also cover problem areas in the rest of the county.”

Completion of the Big Valley Fire Hall was deemed a success.

“There is still some landscaping and paving to complete next year, but for the most part, the project is complete,” the reeve said.

The year has been fruitful, but the county has a few challenges ahead.

“The loss of bridge funding and the reduction of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding has been a challenge to our operations,” Nixon said. “Two bridges were replaced this year, which require funding from general revenue and reserves. Many of the bridges in our county are nearing their life expectancy and it will require careful financial planning to fit expected repairs and replacement into upcoming budgets.”

The loss of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding from the province was also a blow.

It will be a “challenge to keep up services that ratepayers have become accustomed to,” Nixon said in a year-end interview with the Independent.