Negotiations go nowhere on South Boundary Road and Range Road 53
By Tim Kalinowski
Desert Blume residents were dealt a blow to their hopes of getting South Boundary Road fixed sooner rather than later. County staff informed council at last Tuesday’s council meeting of the results of the discussions held between the County and the City of Medicine Hat regarding the repair of South Boundary, and potential cost-sharing on Range Road 53, the dump road.
Staff told council South Boundary has been slated as a project to be looked at in 2017/2018 by the city; not before. And the city wants more information on traffic counts and further discussion of a cost-sharing formula by that time. The city also passed on doing anything to help fix Range Road 53, inviting the county to turn it back into gravel if it felt it was the best way to go.
Coun. Ernest Mudie said the County has essentially called Mayor Ted Clugston’s bluff when he spoke publicly a few months back about the reasons the city had not fixed South Boundary Road and West Boundary Road near Redcliff: Clugston had blamed a lack of participation by the County and the Town of Redcliff for the city dragging its feet.
“The City of Medicine Hat, in spite of their mayor trashing us about the road and saying he would fix the road if Cypress County would do something, it’s pretty obvious looking at this time their staff has zero interest in doing anything with (South Boundary),” said Mudie. “We have made the offer, and to us, because I can’t see us going to do (paving on Range Road 53) on our own, if we have to turn it to gravel, we turn it to gravel.”
Coun. Richard Oster, who represents Desert Blume residents, was angry at the city’s response.
“What part doesn’t the city understand that we are willing to go 50 per cent on a road we don’t own? I also struggle with the fact the city’s Environmental Utilities has said a gravel road will meet their requirements. These people want a gravel road where there is going to be in excess of 100 vehicles a day? Maybe 200? It doesn’t make sense to me… “As representative of Desert Blume, when I talked to Mayor Clugston he said they City would be interested in working with us to upgrade that (South Boundary) road because of the benefits to our residents and the benefits to their residents. I am frustrated with whose doing the negotiations.”
CAO Doug Henderson, who was one of the staff members who met with city officials on these matters, said the city staff he spoke with had a different agenda than Cypress County. Henderson pointed to the fact that the County’s preferred option of re-oiling that stretch of South Boundary was not what Medicine Hat was looking to do at the moment.
“The City doesn’t see sinking any kind of money into it right now just doing the surface,” Henderson explained. “That’s why they are talking about 2017/2018 doing base work as well as surface work. They also want to see where all the traffic is coming from on that (section) of road. Maybe they feel they can get a better deal than just 50 per cent for cost-sharing.”
Henderson also summarized the city’s position on Range Road 53, as he understood it.
“As far as Range Road 53, the landfill road, they are happy with the deal they have right now where it’s paved. Our staff go out there and identify any repairs that are needed, and the contractor is hired, the repairs are done, and the bill goes right to the city. Our staff have not identified any other major needs on that road at this time so that is going to carry on for two, or three or four more years.”
Coun. Mudie said the city’s position on Range Road 53 might be a blessing in disguise for the County.
“I have heard they may only have 10 or 15 years of dump life left. If we wait, we don’t necessarily have to have it paved. We can rip it up whenever, re-gravel and be done with it.”
Oster said he and Desert Blume residents would have to accept the city’s timeline on South Boundary, regardless of how frustrating it might be.
“I have to live with what’s going on. I think the ball is in their court at the City. We have offered to participate in sharing this project. We are willing to get something done now… We have tried.”