By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
In the first County of Stettler council meeting to feature delegations since the onset of the pandemic, things got heated.
The first delegation to speak was Glen Goertzen, a Red Willow property owner concerned about the lack of communication with the County. At the heart of the matter is the dumping of the Red Willow sewage lagoon, which instead of ending up in the nearby creek ended up pooling on Goertzen’s land.
“Randy (Chmelnyk) gave me a phone call last fall, and said they wanted to release the effluent from the sewage lagoon in Red Willow,” said Goertzen.
“I said, I don’t think it is going to go where you think it will. Don’t release it until we talk further.’”
Goertzen was called a short time later by a neighbour letting him know that the water had been released and ended up pooling in his farmland.
“I got a meeting with Randy in January (2021). We talked about things,” said Goertzen.
“We agreed that we would consult each other before anything else is done.”
Unfortunately, that agreement was not kept, with the County of Stettler then putting up a 245-metre three-wire fence along the section of field followed by going in and building a berm to contain the effluent.
“(The fence) seems like such a waste of tax-payers’ money,” said Goertzen, noting that the land is not used for grazing.
“We had an agreement to consult each other before things went on. I’m quite disappointed that County staff didn’t work with me to fix this.”
Goertzen also noted that there is no easement on the land.
“Without that,” said Goertzen, “You can’t let that effluent run there.”
County of Stettler council thanked Goertzen for his presentation and said that they would investigate the situation, following up in writing later.
James Marshall, of James Marshall Trucking, said the County of Stettler of unfairly enforcing its bylaws.
His concern stems to a gravel pit operated by his competitor, which based on Freedom of Information Act requests, is not being operated in accordance with its development permit.
He alleges that despite his bringing the matter to the attention to the County administration back in 2018, no stop work order was ever issued. In his presentation package, Marshall included photographs of a fence hanging in mid-air between two gravel pits, insinuating that the other company was encroaching on the property line.
At the time council and County of Stettler administration investigated the situation and found that the conditions were being met.
A second issue Marshall presented to council is that of road-use agreements.
“In 2019, my company was stopped on September 13 and 14, harassed by protective services that I must get a road use permit,” said Marshall.
“I was told by officers that I was being treated like everyone else. (My competitor) never had road use agreements. Why the inconsistency?”
Marshall told council that he knew the competitor did not have the road use agreements in place because of Freedom of Information requests he had made from the County and finding none in the released documents.
A third issue Marshall brought forward was the apparent lack of reclamation on the County of Stettler owned gravel pits.
“Is the County of Stettler above the law?” asked Marshall.
“(Why are you) enforcing certain rules for certain companies? The Land Use Bylaw has no clear direction of what you want. I would like the County of Stettler to know that your actions affect our community.”
Reeve Larry Clarke thanked Marshall for his presentation.
“I’d like to thank you for voicing your opinion,” said Clarke.
“From a staff basis, there is a recording here. The accusations you make aren’t taken lightly. We will get written comments back to you.”
Cap levy and road use
The final delegation of the day was Dallas Pybus, owner of North Star Trucking.
“I was here when you first introduced (the road use agreements),” said Pybus.
“I said it wasn’t going to work. It isn’t working. It takes up to three days to get a permit, and we don’t have that kind of time.”
Another issue Pybus had was the cost of the permits. A road use agreement application costs gravel haulers $450 each time.
“I’m willing to cooperate with you guys. Can you guys cooperate with us now, and make it easier so we can streamline this?”
Councillor James Nibourg agreed that the situation around the road use agreements needed to change.
“Absolutely, this is something that has to be tweaked,” said Nibourg.
“We are learning as we go. You are making common sense to us, and I appreciate that.”
Another issue Pybus brought to council’s attention was the Cap Levy. According to Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk, since it was introduced, the Cap Levy has generated about $44,000, about half of which has come from North Star Trucking.
Pybus said he was concerned that the County of Stettler is not adequately enforcing the Cap Levy.
“What are you doing to enforce it and find out who is telling the truth?” asked Pybus.
“Because if you’re not, I’m not going to pay it either.”
Brysiuk informed Pybus that the County of Stettler now can compel companies operating in the County to undergo an audit to confirm that they are appropriately recording their gravel hauling.
“How long does that take?” asked Pybus.
Nibourg said, “This is government, it takes a while.”