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Many questions remain with Winnifred Raw Water project

Posted on November 30, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

The Winnifred Raw Water Phase 2 project is certainly in need of a review and I commend Reeve Barrows for recognizing this and the divisions amongst Winnifred property owners.

The division stems from the way the County has handled this file. County officials decided to deal with and include only a small select group of property owners while excluding many or most other property owners.

It was only after all the planning meetings with this, including group and all decision making about the Phase 2 project made and the contractor in place ready to go, did the County inform the excluded group that this water project was going to happen.

The only options offered by the County were to accept the plan put forth by County officials, no questions asked and never mind the details, or start an expensive petition against the project with the County demanding thousands of dollars just for the names and addresses of Winnifred property owners (to stop the project altogether) within thirty days from the notification letter. So, pretty much impossible.

County officials failed to do even the most basic rudimentary examination and so did not notice that one of my properties in Winnifred was incorrectly listed at 31,500 square meters, more than ten times it’s actual size.

This difference is so large that it would change all the calculations in the plans. If they had exercised due diligence they would have easily found this error, rather they went ahead and tendered the contract based on the incorrect information.

County then proceeded to issue a tax notice and invoices using this wrong data.

When the error was finally noticed by County officials they sent out a revised tax notice and invoice, this time, about four times as much.

If this error has caused a four fold increase in the Local Improvement Levy, I can only wonder the effect on the contract to install the distribution system.

Ironically, if I had been included in the planning process, I would have alerted County officials of this error and saved everyone involved much consternation. 

The County’s careless and secretive handling of the Winnifred Raw Water Distribution project Phase 2 has left property owners confused and concerned. 

We don’t know the final cost of the project, how costs are to be apportioned (to outside users), the terms of payment or any details of the contract. We don’t even know if we are using the metric or imperial measure or why they suddenly switched to imperial.

About the only thing we know for sure is that if we do not pay the levy, whatever it may be, the County will confiscate our properties because the Local Improvement Levy becomes part of the property tax.

I remind Reeve Barrows and the whole of County of Forty Mile Council that elected officials carry a lawful duty of care that is fiduciary in nature and therefore extends to the need to ameliorate the potential negative effect of it’s actions taken by incompetent or recalcitrant County employees.

Council needs to take responsibility here and ensure all bonafide stakeholders are included and informed and provide full disclosure.

Eric Musekamp, Bow Island

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