Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm confused!

I'm sure you've all read the article in the Drumheller Mail newspaper regarding my comments about that town's council turning down the Aqua 7 Regional Water Services Commission's request to re-adjust the water distribution boundaries so they make more sense.

I'm confused! 

The reporter, Pat Kolafa, says that the good folks in Drumheller are paying close to the same water rates that we are!  I don't follow.  We in Beiseker pay $4.18 for each and every cubic meter we use.  Drumheller pays $1.80 at most.  That's not close, at least not using my math!   Other water charges (meter charges, administration, etc.)  are taken from General Revenue.  If we charged all those costs to water users I shudder to think what the price of water would be!

But I was wrong about one thing - Aqua 7 is not paying Drumheller their retail rate ($1.32) for water.  We were paying that, but not anymore.  We now pay $1.08!  Hey, I can be wrong too you know. 

Beyond that, I will not get into a "he says, I say, you say" kind of an argument. 

The fact is that Aqua 7 must sell more water to all of its seven municipality-investors!  For that to happen, each of those seven municiplities must sell more water.  Rocky View County is well on the way to solving its water issues around its area except in the north east quarter!  In order for Aqua 7 to sell water to Rocky View, the county must be able to sell its allotment to customers in that quarter!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Article in the Drumheller Mail

An article featuring my quotes (and quotes from this blog) was published in the Drumheller Mail, yesterday!  Here's an excerpt below -

Backlash heard from Town's water decision
Published on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 00:00
By Pat Kolafa, Drumheller Mail

 A civic leader in Beiseker has strong opinions about Drumheller not allowing geographical restrictions to be lifted for Rocky View County.

     Last week Drumheller Town Council voted to not amend its existing water agreement with Aqua 7. The deputy mayor of Beiseker, Ray Courtman, is an avid blogger and lashed out against Drumheller Council in its decision.

     In his posting entitled “Drumheller Throws Up Road Blocks,” he says, “This is very frustrating. Drumheller isn’t even a member of Aqua 7, yet they’re calling the shots! All they do is sell us water. What we do with that water should be our (Aqua 7’s) business! That’s sort of like me buying a new car and the dealer telling me where and when I can drive it!”

    He goes on to say that Drumheller is getting a “heck of a deal” by selling water, alleging that Drumheller is selling water at the same rate to Aqua 7 as it charges Drumheller residents.

According to the Town of Drumheller, it is selling water to Aqua 7 at a rate of $.98 per cubic metre. This is bulk cost for water alone. It does not include capital contributions for upkeep of the system, as Aqua 7 owns and maintains the distribution system.

The rest of this article is available at the Drumheller Mail's site -

To read the blog post quoted in Mr. Kolafa's article, please see -  Drumheller throws up new roadblocks!

Updated - To see my response to this article, please see - I'm confused!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where's the Money Goin'?

The Village of Beiseker receives many different grants from the federal and provincial governments each year.  Some are "once in a lifetime grants" while others are presented to municipalities on a schedule (available every year, or every two or three years).

 The main ones are:
These and others could bring as much as $500 000.00 or more into Beiseker in a single year.

So; where does all this money go?  Many of the grants received have "strings attached."  That means that the grant comes with exact instructions as to what the money can be spent on; the funds must be directed to a specific project!

Here is a list of the major projects the Village of Beiseker has supported with these funds in recent years.  Some of these grants also require the municipality arrange to "match" the funds through local sources (municipal tax dollars, donations, etc.)
  1. Main Street Improvement Program
  2. Sewer lift station upgrades 
  3. Purchase and installation of new water meters
  4. Chinook Crescent upgrades
  5. recent paving projects
  6. Moving our library to the new Community Links building
  7. Support of various recreational programs and facilities
  8. Summer student employment
  9. Beiseker Airport runway and taxiway upgrades (this was a one-time specific grant by Alberta Transportation)
To find out the specific amounts and their application, visit the Village of Beiseker website after the Auditors' Report has been submitted:  The auditors are doing their routine annual inspection of Beiseker's books right now.  Their report will be presented in a few weeks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 18th Airport Coffee Session

This past Saturday's Coffee, Muffins and Hangar Flying Session at the Beiseker Airport was great.   Not too many showed up but those who came had a fresh baked muffin, some great coffee and a whole bunch of airplane talk.  We were pleased to have some first time visitors fly in from Three Hills and Councillor Al Henuset popped in for a few minutes! 

Next month's  session will be on Saturday, March 17.  We're going to advertise it more so we get a few more folks coming in.  We're looking forward to clear skies and good winds all that day!  So join us, and wear green if you want! 

Mark your calendars:  Saturday March 17, from 10:00 a.m. until Noon at the Beiseker Airport!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Sam McGee Story

You might have heard of the famous poem by Robert W. Service about the demise and ultimate cremation of gold prospector Sam McGee on the shore of Lake Lebarge in Northern Canada -
There are strange things done in the midnight sun,
by the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
It's a good tale. But it is fiction.  Sam wasn't from Tennessee and he didn't succumb to hypothermia in the Yukon in 1898.  He was born in Lindsay, Ontario and passed away quietly at his daughers place east of Beiseker in 1940.  In many ways Sam's real life is actually more interesting than Service's tale!  His travels took him all over North America as he seeked fame and fortune in numerous ventures.  At one point, he was living in Whitehorse, working in construction, where he met Robert Service who worked at a bank there at the time.  Over the years the two became friends.  Service asked Sam if he could use his name in a poem and Sam agreed.

Funeral of Sam McGee, 1940
There were times which Sam was a prospector who tried to make his fortune in both gold and copper in Canada's North.   After his many adventures all across the continent, Sam settled down at his daughter's place near Beiseker in the late 1930s.  Just before he moved to the Beiseker area, he had made one final trip to Whitehorse where he was able to purchase a small urn containing "Sam McGee's Ashes"!  The urns were sold as souvenirs by the Whitehorse Historical Society. 

Sam died in August of 1940 of a stroke or heart attack (the stories vary) and was buried east of Beiseker.  Exactly where he is buried is a bit of a local legend, too! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tree Guards & Airport Coffee Time

Hey, a big congrats to Ross McNeill who just finished installing the new tree guards along Main Street!  Thanks to Ross this part of the project was home based!  Ross did the welding and installation.  They were powder coated in Linden!  And they look great!  I'll get you a photo over the weekend. 

Don't forget the muffins and coffee session at the Beiseker Airport tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10:00 a.m. 'til Noon.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Drumheller throws up new roadblocks!

It was reported in the Drumheller Mail newspaper that the Drumheller town council has once again voted to refuse to allow the Aqua 7 Regional Water Commission to extend its boundaries in Rocky View County, so that the county could actually sell some water!  

I'd hoped the article was in error!  It isn't.  But I'd like to say "Thank you!" to Drumheller Mayor Terry Yemen, as well as Councillors Sharel Shoff and Doug Stanford for voting in support of Rocky View's request!  Approving it would have helped all members of the Aqua 7 water system who are struggling with water rates right now!  I especially appreciated Councillor Shoff's quote in the Drumheller Mail article;
“We are either going to sell the water or not. Either we’re going to be a regional partner or not," explained Councillor Shoff. “We’re not increasing how much water, we’re just saying they can sell it where they want. In my opinion, we, as a Town, either want to be a regional partner, or we don’t. The more water we sell, the cost should go down for our residents.”
As you recall this has happened once before, when Aqua 7 wanted to sell water to the CrossIron Mills mall and surrounding area, before the mall was built.  One Drumheller councillor was rumored to have said at that time that if the mall wanted to have Red Deer River water, it should be built in Drumheller - and that the millions of dollars Rocky View was going to give Drumheller would be of no benefit!  The provincial government who had vowed to help us sell water said absolutely nothing, so the project to supply CrossIron Mills with water from Aqua 7 was killed!  Now it appears it's deja vu all over again! 

Rocky View County is a fully paid-up member of the water commission but has yet to be able to buy (and then sell) any water from the commission!

This is very frustrating.  Drumheller isn't even a member of Aqua 7 yet they're calling the shots!  All they do is sell us water.  What we do with that water should be our (Aqua 7's) business!  That's sort of like me buying a new car and the dealer telling me where and when I can drive it!

I think Drumheller is already getting a heck of a deal selling its water to us.  I understand that they sell it to us at the retail rate; the same rate Drumheller residents pay!  Then the commission has to add on all the Aqua 7 fees which makes our water prohibitively expensive. 

The way I see it Beiseker, Linden, Carbon, Acme, Kneehill County and Irricana are partially paying for any improvements to Drumheller's water systems!  Rocky View County isn't paying, of course, because they still can't buy (and then sell) any water! 

I wish we lived in Alberta, where its government swore to make sure all Albertans have access to clean, plentiful and economically sustainable water!!

Related post:  Water Rates
Related post: Article in the Drumheller Mail

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Water Rates

Some of you were surprised at the cost of water here in Beiseker, that was mentioned in the Mountain View Gazette article published yesterday.  Others asked me how our rates compared to other communities in Alberta.

Here's the scoop;
There are many others and there are even cheaper rates.  I'll post them when I find them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My View on the Mountain View Gazette article

The article in an earlier post came from this week's edition of the Mountain View Gazette.  I was interviewed for it by Ms Isaac last week.  I think it's a fantastic article!  It gets the word out just how much silliness we've had to put up with from the provincial government over these past ten years or more.  We in Beiseker have had enough!

One thing not made totally clear in the article is that the Aqua 7 Regional Water Services Commission is made up of seven municipalities: Rocky View County, Kneehill County, Linden, Carbon, Acme, Irricana and Beiseker.  We are all facing this issue of high water costs and extra commission charges as we are all members of the commission.  Administration fees and debt servicing charges are paid for out of general renevue in each municipality.  Rocky View County has actually paid all those extra fees even though it hasn't sold one drop of water yet!

The leaking pipes and the poorly operating meters are purely Beiseker problems and I believe we are well on the way to solving them!   Coast-to-Coast Mechanical has installed more than 40 of the almost 300 meters already and Public Works Foreman Bill has detected and repaired many leaks!

Please, take time to read the article.  Thank you to the Gazette and Jennifer Isaac for bringing this story to the attention of even more Albertans.

Article in the Mountain View Gazette

A lengthy article appeared in today's Mountain View Gazette about the water troubles facing the Village;

Beiseker's pricey water woes frustrating for Village council
Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012 03:00 am 
Jennifer Isaac, Mountain View Gazette

Beiseker’s pricey water woes are causing frustration for village council and residents.
Recently, village administration presented figures to council, showing that in 2011 the village had a water deficit of about $400,000, double the figures from the previous year.

Water consumption has been rising in the village, resulting in extremely high costs to the municipality for water provided by the Aqua 7 Regional Water Commission.

According to deputy mayor Ray Courtman, the story began when the aquifer the village drew water from gradually got lower and lower.

“We started looking for other ways to provide us with water,” Courtman said. “About 10 years ago, we decided to go with a new project that was being started north of us to bring water out of the Red Deer River and pump it to all the communities in this area.”

That program, he said, became the Aqua 7 Regional Water Commission, of which he is the vice-chair.

“We turned the water on in September 2005 and we’ve been using that system since then,” Courtman added. “It’s great water. It’s wonderful water. I think it’s better than our well water.”

When Aqua 7 was created about 10 years ago, he said, the province indicated it would pay one third of the cost. “And the federal government said they would pay one third,” Courtman said. “The municipality said they would have to borrow the money. We’re talking millions of dollars here.”

Courtman said they started the process and shortly after, the province decided to give other municipalities up to 90 per cent, instead of one third of the cost.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Seventh Street

Thank you (who ever you are) for your comments regarding 7th Street paving. Some properties would experience a greater increase than others according to the number of feet actually fronting on the street.  In other words the longer the sidewalk across the front of your property, the more you pay! 

We will probably be asking the residents along that street again whether or not they would like their street paved.  And again it will be their democratic right to turn us down by petition.  We (Council) would like to have all the streets in Beiseker paved.  Paved streets are easier to maintain, cut down on the dust, and they raise the resale values of the homes there.  We would like to have the provincial streets grant program pay for them but that could take decades!  That's why a local improvement is considered.

The Shooting Range

To answer the trivia question I asked at the end of my last post, Beiseker's shooting range was located in the old community hall.  The building, called Memorial Hall, was finished in 1948 and located on Main Street at the corner of Main and Third Avenue, north across the street from the medical clinic. 

An extension was built onto the back wall of the stage to house a bullet catcher.  Shooters were on a raised platform on the main floor of the hall and shot at targets fastened to the front of the catcher on the back wall of the stage.  To the best of my knowledge only very small calibres were used, probably .22 short target rounds. 

The shooting range was discontinued many years before the Memorial Hall building was sold to a private individual after our new hall was built. It burned down more than 20 years ago.  Now you know.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Oldest Commercial Building on Main Street

It started life as the Dominion Garage in 1927, under the ownership of Tony Schmaltz, and was originally a dealership for Hudson Motors.  Later, it become the General Motors dealership under the ownership of Sam & E.M. Kreuger and eventually Louis L. Schmaltz, who sold International Harvester farm machinery as well.  There were gas pumps out front and a small tire shop on the west side.  The black-and-white picture of the building, at right, is dated around 1930. 

It closed over fifty years ago and the building sat vacant for many years.  It was used by the Village to store all the theatre equipment (seats, projector, etc.) from the Memorial Hall.
Ron Rice and a partner from Manitoba bought it and opened the Big Country Auto Body Shop there in 1973.  Afterward, it was reincarnated again as the Big Country Mall.

It is the oldest building still standing on Main Street.  Almost all the other old structures on Main Street were destroyed by fires over the years.

Here's a trivia question for you;  Where on Main Street was Beiseker's rifle range?  (Answer)

(The black-and-white photo above was taken from a scan of the book Beiseker's Golden Heritage, so forgive the poor quality. -Rhys)

Aqua 7 Water Line Shutdown

The shutdown of the Aqua 7 Regional Water system will likely not happen until later in March.  Valve replacement parts have been difficult to get. 

We'll let you know when we have a date.  Again, we'll still have water here in the village but we might have to go on a resricted use schedule for a couple of days.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Village of Beiseker on Facebook

Down there on the right side of this blog is a link to the Village of Beiseker's Facebook page.  Click on the link below and check it out.  I think you'll be impressed.

As my son Rhys noted, I'm somewhat technologically challeged, but I do see the importance of blogs and Facebook in communicating today.  If you're starting out on these new fangled social media things, don't give up!  Keep trying them out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Privacy Concerns with new Water Meters

A couple of inquiries were made about Beiseker's new water meter systems possibly invading the privacy of residents. 

I don't see a concern.  The new meters transmit the data (amount of water used) to a computer in the cab of a village truck.  Every month a public works employee used to have to walk around the village and read all the old read-out remotes on the side of every home in the village.  The information which used to be displayed on those read-out remotes will now be gathered and held electronically in the computer until it is downloaded into the village computer back at the office.  I am very confident that our rights to privacy are better protected by the new system over the old.

And the new computer in the cab of the truck doesn't leave the gate open so my dog can escape!

The Beiseker Station Museum's Digitizing Project

The Beiseker Museum Society is busy making plans to have the records of the Village of Beiseker digitized.  This includes all the minutes of all Village council meetings, all the way back to our incorporation as a village back in 1921!  These records have been microfilmed already and the originals are now being stored in a special secure storage area operated by the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.  To make these records easily available to everyone, they will now be digitized so they can be viewed on your home computer! 

The Beiseker Station Museum Society received Alberta Lottery Fund money to pay for the project.  The Village has also contributed to the project.

Many communities in Alberta have lost their important documents due to fire, flooding or rodent damage!  To the best of my knowledge, Beiseker is the first community of our size to take an active role in preserving these archival treasures.  Special thanks to Museum volunteer Jeanette Richter for spearheading this project. 

If you would like to become a member of the Beiseker Station Museum Society, meetings are held in the museum (in the CPR Station with the Village Office) on the first Monday of each month at 2:00 p.m.  You are most welcome to join us then.

New Water Meters, Update!

I got my first look at the new water meter systems yesterday!  The meters themselves are no bigger than the old ones being replaced, but the new ones have a plastic "sender/antenae" attached to them.  This sender thing is about as big as a pop can and it is the heart and soul of the new machine.  The unit measures the amount of water going into the home or business then transmits that data to a special receiver carried in a public works vehicle (likely the garbage truck since it travels around the whole village every week).

That information can be then downloaded into the Village's computer system and the water bills are printed from there.  It's an amazing system!

Meanwhile the Public Works Department is carrying on with their "super sleuth" project to track down all of our water leaks.  More have been found and repaired! 

For the first time I'm feeling confident we are getting our water woes under control here in the village!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Water Meters!

I hope you all received your notice about the installation of our new water meters.  The project will begin in a couple of weeks.  A resident plumbing contractor, Coast to Coast Mechanical, has been hired by the Village to install the meters.  I hope the project can be completed in a few weeks.  We are looking to replace every meter in the village!

If your meter is in a similar place to mine, you're going to have to clear a pathway to it and around it to allow the plumber access to the water pipe where it enters your home.  I guess I'm going to have to move those boxes of Christmas decorations again!  We will be getting contact phone numbers and more info from the plumbing contractor in the next while.  Let's work together to get these meters installed a.s.a.p.!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Archive Photos of Beiseker

I hope you're all enjoying the archival photos of Beiseker from years past on the Village of Beiseker's Facebook page.  Here's a few notes on some of the landmarks seen in the photos;

The shots of Main Street show the King George Hotel.  It was built in 1910 and burned down in 1936.  It was located where Beiseker Home Hardware is today.

Crown Lumber was built on the site of the livery stable.  It was replaced by another, larger lumber store later.  It was located where Beiseker Pharmacy is now.

 The School shown in the photo was located where St. Mary's Church is now.  After the original Catholic Church burned down (located where the St. Mary's Cemetery is) the new church was built on its present site after the school was demolished.  The new school was constructed in its present location.

Beiseker Motors is located where Apple Pie is now and still stands.  The building shown was built on the site of a merchantile/hardware building.  That building was reported to be fire proof but it burned down.

The CN Station was, in my opinion, the nicest looking of Beiseker's two stations.  In the mid 1970s group of interested citizens were formed to save and restore both stations which bookended our Main Street.  As funds and plans were being arranged, the CNR showed up one day unannounced to demolish and burn their station.  That spurred the group on to save the CPR Station, now the Village Office and Museum.  The Library will soon be moving out of there and into their new digs.

The Royal Bank building sat at the corner of Main Street and 2nd Avenue where the Credit Union is today.  The new bank building (now the Credit Union Building) was built behind it.  After the new building was finished, this building was carefully moved into Centennial Park and has served as our Golden Years Town & Country Club ever since.

Frank Lount was Beiseker's first Mayor, and served as Beiseker's Mayor for 30 years!  His home was behind the Big Country Mall building on Seventh Street.  That house still stands. Lount Crescent was named in his honour.

Main Street with the trees down the center.  In the 1970s Beiseker decided to "spruce up" its Main Street by planting trees in concrete culverts down the middle.  All went well until pranksters sawed them all down!  They were quickly replaced and remained there until the street was paved a few years later.

There's a few notes on the history of our village.  I hope you enjoy looking at the photos and learning a bit about our past.