By Tim Kalinowski
Cypress County council continued to creep up on a new policy and budget for undeveloped road allowance maintenance work at last Tuesday’s council meeting. County staff brought back the policy for discussion again last week after creating new amendments which included guidelines for how and when to spend the newly budgeted $180,000 yearly for that purpose from the County’s gravel budget. The new policy included guidelines for what would constitute major or minor road maintenance, and what would still have to be cost-shared 50/50 with local landowners.
One item in the new policy stuck in Coun. Richard Oster’s craw right away. Wagon ruts were not eligible for any of the $180,000 non-cost shared budget, and would still have to be paid, in part, by the landowners wanting the work done.
Oster argued not to help out with that kind of work made no sense because wagon ruts lead to more major damage being done to a road as time goes on. Why not, he asked, do some work on wagon ruts here there to nip these other types of long term maintenance issues in the bud?
“I think in the long run we will be saving money in not having to send the grader in to maintain these roads. Once that (filling) gets done, I really think that’s it; that’s all the farmers should need to be able to go back in there,” said Oster.
Coun. Garry Lentz concurred.
“In a lot of cases if we put a little gravel into those ruts, it makes them completely passable. And it will save the grasslands beside from getting completely tore up,” he said.
Others on council agreed in principle, but expressed concerns about how to budget for it when to fill wagon ruts costs about $2,000 a mile and has to be contracted out to a third party because the County does not own those types of gravel filler chutes.
Reeve Darcy Geigle then stepped in to offer a possible solution to the dilemma. Put a specific annual dollar figure budget on that kind of work as well, and that’s how much work you get done per year. Landowners wanting wagon ruts fixed apply to council before a certain deadline, same as they would with the proposed pit-run and low spot filling, and council then discusses and decides on a case by case basis who gets the money in the next road work season.
“We’re biting our own hand here… If you are going to (gravel) the wagon trails you’ve got to set a dollar figure there every year, which is over and above the $180,000… So how about $50,000 for that and $180,000 for the other (low spot fixing)?”
This would bring the total amount allotted to undeveloped road allowance maintenance each year to $230,000; all coming out of the county’s current gravel budget.
Most councillors agreed to Geigle’s compromise, voting 7-1 in favour. County staff will likely bring back a final Undeveloped Road Allowance policy for final reading next council meeting.