Sunday, March 31, 2013

In Memory of Fred McCall

The aviation community is mourning the loss of one of its own.  Fred R McCall passed away, last week.

Fred's work in restoring old aircraft is renowned.  He built a replica of a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" (or, "Canuck" in Canada) biplane for the Glenbow Museum and a Bell 47 helicopter for the Whyte Museum, in Banff.  He has been involved in many other aviation restoration projects in and around Calgary.

Next week the Aero Space Museum in Calgary will be taking its aerial applicator aircraft to Aggie Days at Stampede Park.  The retired Cessna is an excellent stand-in for the many working spray planes here in southern Alberta. It will teach hundreds of city school students how important this facet of aviation is to agriculture here in Alberta. Fred was part of the small group who restored and donated this aircraft to the Museum.

Calgary's airport, McCall Field, was named after Fred's father - Frederick RG McCall - and Fred was very involved in the Aero Space Museum there.  He served on the Museum's  Board of Directors and took an active part in its operation.

Fred McCall will be surely missed by the aviation community here in southern Alberta.  My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ralph Remembered

I was very saddened to hear of the passing of former Premier Ralph Klein.

Everything that could be said about Ralph has been said over the last few days so I'll keep my tribute short.

Ralph and I have known each other - very vaguely - since we were kids. We attended the same junior high school in Calgary.  Ralph and I often disagreed on policies and politics. We agreed to disagree but I always respected his dedication and his tenacity.

He was a man devoted to his community; first to his city then, to his province. Ralph perfected the "oops factor," often speaking what he was thinking. He was chastised by the media for this but I think we were all secretly agreeing with him, in one way or another!

Goodbye Ralph, we will miss you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Tissue Issue

I get a lot of snickers when I mention this problem faced by our municipality.  Beiseker, along with quite a number of other municipalities have to deal with this problem on an ongoing basis.

It is the tissue issue!  Many municipalities must pump sanitary sewage to its treatment site or lagoon.  This requires the use of large and expensive pumps.

Beiseker's sewage pumps are located in a building behind the seed cleaning plant.  Those pumps send the sewage to our lagoon system on the east side of Highway #9.

Bathroom tissue, toilet tissue, or toilet paper is designed to disintegrate or bio-degrade almost immediately after it's flushed.  Facial tissue; not so much!  Flushing facial tissue can be very harmful to those large pumps!

Pumps must be constantly cleaned and overhauled, partly due to the fact that they get jammed up with facial tissue.  This process costs Beiseker thousands of dollars each year!  No, really!

When people ask what they can do to help the village save money, one way I suggest is to remember that toilet paper is for flushing and facial tissue is for throwing in the garbage!

(Did I make you snicker?)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Provincial Budget

A little over a week ago the provincial government came down with its new budget.

Premier Alison Redford had assured us that she would not be downloading any financial difficulties to the municipalities. I have examined the budget quite carefully, and I participated in a conference call with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Transportation Minister Ric McIver the day after the budget was brought down. I disagree!

Here are some of my concerns regarding this budget and how it affects our little municipality.
  • STEP (or, Summer Temporary Employment Program) was a grant so that we may hire students to work for the village over the summer.  It's been scrapped! This means that if the village wishes to hire students this summer, it will have to come up with the money itself.
  • The Municipal Sustainability Initiative grants are continuing at their existing rate for this year, however the future of that program is in jeopardy. We used this program to upgrade the first block of our Main Street.  We were hoping that this program would continue so we may be able to upgrade the remainder of Main Street.
  • I was unable to ascertain the future of the Seniors' Property Tax Assistance Program.  It will exist for 2013 but after that it's anyone's guess.  The program gave some tax relief to some seniors who have been caught by MVA (Market Value Assessment) and are, in my opinion, paying far more in property taxes than they should be.  Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths' office said they would find out what was happening here and get back to me. 
  • Transportation Minister Ric McIver told us that almost all smaller projects have been put on indefinite hold.  Beiseker relies on those smaller projects!  But I hope the agreed changes to Highway 72 (North Road) will still go ahead this spring!
  • The Water For Life program has been drastically reduced, but I understand the province will continue to fund accepted projects at the 90% level.  You will recall that Beiseker's regional water system (called Aqua 7 Regional Water Service Commission) was originally funded about 40% by the province.  Looks like there's not much money to help us out, there!
  • There was no relief mentioned for small municipalities who have to pay their Education Portion of the property taxes in full to the provincial government -- even though they haven't collected that money yet!  Beiseker has around $250,000 owing in unpaid taxes but the province still yanks tens of thousands of dollars out of our account for the Education portion.  No questions, no comments, no deferral; nothing!
  • I'm worried that over the next twelve months, other small programs and grants will be discontinued while the provincial government goes through its belt-tightening.  If Beiseker wishes these programs to continue, the money will have to come from our property tax pockets!
In my opinion, that's where we stand!  Most of these cuts are still in the "wait and see" file.

I hope we'll get more details in the weeks to come.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fire Department Misunderstandings

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the strange happenings between three mythical fire departments. I have done some extensive investigation into the story, and I have come up with the conclusion that many of the decisions made by those involved were based on misinformation, misunderstandings, and rumour!

The decision to have one Fire Department responded over another was primarily based upon the understanding that the department in question (in my original post, the Village of Alpha's department) did not have qualified personnel to respond nor did they have certified equipment to respond with.  This was, in fact, incorrect.

The closest Fire Department to the incident did have qualified personnel standing by with a certified vehicle and equipment.

In my opinion, the three fire departments involved - and the county in which they are situated - must engage in some meaningful negotiation to prevent such an incident from happening again.  Everyone involved must also remember that  it is the safety and well-being of citizens that is all the primary focus, here!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Water Under the Bridge

I think I was the Beiseker councillor referred to by former Irricana councillor Frank Dusome, in a recent post he made on the Irricana Ratepayers web site.  I do recall discussing with him the fact that our village was buying much more water than we were selling.

What happened, there?  First and foremost, our Public Works department found and repaired a number of major leaks in the village's distribution pipes.

We also found that there were many water users in our community who were not paying their fair share, through no fault of their own. Our water metering system at that time was old and corroded.  In some cases, the meter was reading inaccurately or almost not at all.

This meant that some water users were paying the minimum on their bill when they were using much more water.  Our billing system at the time didn't pick up on the discrepancies.

I am pleased to report that we have since replaced our water metering system throughout the village with new digitized models! These new meters are very accurate and automatically relay their reading to a computer carried in a public works vehicle as it goes around town. The new meters are also tamper-proof.

I don't know if some of the highest water users in the village had inaccurate meters, but I'm very confident today that all water users in the village are now paying for what they use.