Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wildlife on the Highway

This past week, I counted six deer killed on that piece of Highway 9 between Beiseker and Irricana!  Their carcasses litter the ditch and attract other critters like coyotes which also risk being victims.  I know some will say "there's lots of deer and who needs coyotes," but just the cost of car repairs must be astronomical!

Here are some of the things I've learned over the years, to avoid hitting a deer on the highway;
  • This time of the year (October through mid December) is the "rut"!  All male deer (bucks) can think about is finding a girlfriend and all the females (does) can focus on is finding a boyfriend.  Traffic patterns are not in the equation!  Be extra cautious behind the wheel during this time. 
  • When you see one of those yellow signs with the jumping deer on it - slow down, and watch the ditches for any signs of the critters.  Especially at dusk and dawn and during the rut! 
  • If you see deer on both sides of the highway or on the highway, Murphy's law says they're going to join up on one side or the other!  Slow down, flash your headlights and tap your horn in very short little toots to draw their attention to you.  They may still cross in front of you but now you're ready for them.
  • Watch for those reflecting eyes.  Deer will often look at an approaching car and you'll see their "eye shine".
  • Many drivers swear by those "deer whistles" attached to the front of the car.
  • If you see one deer cross in front of you, there are likely more to follow, or possibly a predator chasing them!
I know that some collisions with wildlife are unavoidable, but I hope these tips might help you avoid one. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let It Snow!

Snow has been the subject of more debates and arguments this year than ever before!  Who shovels it?  Where do we put it? When do we shovel it? Where do we shovel it?

On and on it goes!  I've already gone over the Village's policy of snow removal on here, a few weeks ago. 

First off, though, I thought the Public Works Department did an absolutely stellar job removing that dump of snow from Main Street, last weekend.  They started around 5 a.m. Sunday morning and had Main Street looking pretty ship shape by Monday afternoon!  Well done group!

This week, we're discussing the removal of snow from the sidewalk in front of homes.  Our newly updated bylaw gives residents 72 hours to clear the snow from their walks along in front of their homes.  After that period of time, the Village can remove the snow and charge the homeowner $1.00 per foot (30 cm.) of sidewalk!   Last Monday night, we discussed levying a fine along with the removal charge. 

Now, most Beisekerites are really good at removing the snow from the public sidewalk, but there are a few properties where the snow sits on the sidewalk all winter and waits for the spring thaw.   We have a fairly large population of seniors here in the village, and I think it's unfair to make them walk through knee deep snow or over slippery ice, just to get down the the block!

Village council is addressing the issue of ice covered intersections and road crossings, but we still have a few property owners who leave the snow piling up.

I'm asking for everyone's help here.  If you have noticed a sidewalk that has yet to be cleared this fall please phone the village office with the address (403 947 3774). Let's get some of these chronic problems cleared up, before we get too much more snow!

UPDATE:  One of the worst offenders in town is the Telus building at the corner of Seventh Street and Second Avenue.  I am determined to solve that one before Spring is sprung! Any ideas?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Back from AUMA Convention

I'm back after a very good Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) convention in Calgary.  I think this year's convention was one of the better ones as far as Beiseker is concerned.

We met with three provincial government ministries (Transportation, Environment and Municipal Affairs) with positive results from each.
  • Transportation:  We discussed traffic control (mostly speed controls) along Highways #9 and Highway #72.  It was decided that we try a number of different strategies to control the speeds along these highways.  We asked that the "Engine Retarder Brakes" sign on the west side of  Beiseker on Highway #72 be removed.  We want to see if it makes any difference at all in the use of those annoying engine retarder brakes (also known as 'Jake brakes') on those big trucks entering Beiseker.  In my opinion, the sign did nothing to convince many truckers from not using their retarder brakes within village limits.   We have to address this issue because the problem is getting worse!
  • Environment:  We discussed ways to control melt water and storm water in our village centre.  The lack of grade is the main factor in our inability to quickly move water out of the downtown core, and into the drainage system on the village's east side.  We decided to find ways to solve this problem over the next summer season.
  • Municipal Affairs;  The main topic of discussion here was fire protection.  Councillors Karen Ursu and Dave McKenzie did us proud, clearly discussing the issues we are having operating our volunteer fire department.  Municipal Affairs Associate Minister Greg Weadick was most helpful with suggestions on how we might proceed in solving these issues.  We also informed him that we would be actively seeking mutual aid agreements with the counties of Rocky View, Wheatland, and Kneehill in the near future.
On the trade show floor, we found information on playground equipment, safety equipment, rail safety, street furniture, and a host of other products and services for Beiseker.

Councilors Dave and Karen, assistant CAO Gail, and myself with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi
  One of the highlights of my convention was the City of Calgary Reception held at Calgary's City Hall.  Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was a most gracious host for the evening.  Fine food, good music, and guided tours of the newly re-opened Old City Hall (after June's devastating floods) made for a great evening.

Overall I was most pleased with A.U.M.A. Convention 2013.  Next year, the convention will be held in Edmonton in late September.  I'm already looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

AUMA Convention

Tomorrow, municipal councilors from all over Alberta will meet in Calgary to begin their three-day Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention.  The convention is held each year, usually in October, and alternates between Calgary and Edmonton.

This year it was moved into November, to give newly-elected councilors time to get up to speed.

The convention provides time and a venue for municipal councilors to meet with each other in educational sessions, brainstorming about common problems, having policy & resolution setting sessions, and information sessions.  An evening is usually set aside for social gatherings and get-togethers. 

Meetings are also arranged between the municipal councils and various provincial government ministries.  Beiseker will have meetings with the Departments of Municipal Affairs, Transportation, and Environment on Thursday.  It gives us a chance to talk to these provincial departments about local issues concerning Beiseker.

I'll let you know what transpired during those meetings, next week.   I am proud to say that our village will be well represented at the convention this year!  Four councillors and our Assistant CAO will be attending.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Village Updates: Fire Protection, Snow, Water & the Bassano Station

We had a great council meeting Tuesday night (November 12).  A number of issues and concerns were discussed.  Here's a few of the things we talked about.
  • We reaffirmed our policy that all the village's fire hydrants will be systematically checked by our fire department, with consultation with Public Works. 
  • We discussed our very icy streets and sidewalks, and suggested ways that we can make it easier for everyone to get around during the winter months.  We may have to look into how Public Works removes ice and snow from streets and sidewalks, especially at intersections.
  • We talked about the placement (or not) of the Bassano Station on its foundation.  It appears work has halted again on the project and it sits there looking forlorn once more.  There doesn't appear to be much the Village can do about this project but we will endeavor to find out its status.
  • We talked about a letter from the Town of Irricana to the Aqua7 Regional Water Services Commission, noting that the town refuses to pay the 10% increase in water prices levied by the Town of Drumheller.  I do not understand what they expect to accomplish with this move!  Aqua7, which includes Irricana, will have to pay the shortfall on Irricana's behalf.
  • We decided to prepare a mutual aid agreement for fire protection, which we will present to our neighbour municipalities. 
Overall, a great meeting.  I think we addressed some very crucial issues in Beiseker.  Now we need to keep an eye on the solutions to see that they do what we hope they do!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Snow Removal!

With the first snowfall of the year, there's been comments about street snow removal in Beiseker, as well as some confusion about what the Village does about it - and doesn't do.  So here is my understanding of our snow removal policies;
  • After each snowfall, our Public Works Department gets to work with three main pieces of equipment; the large plow-sanding truck, the skid-steer, and the tractor.  We do not own a grader.  In our opinion, a grader is a very expensive piece of machinery to own and maintain.
  • Main Street (including the central business district) and the main arteries are plowed first.  The business sidewalks are also cleared.
  • As in most municipalities, residential streets are not usually cleared unless they are impassable.
  • Lanes are checked over on the Thursday to make sure the garbage truck and recycling van can get around.
  • Public parking lots are cleared.
  • The airport runway is always the last to be cleared.
  • Residents are given 72 hours to clear the snow from the public sidewalk in front of their homes.
  • The village maintains a snow removal budget which is not huge.  Moving snow is expensive!
Snow removal policies always generate much discussion in council.  Council must balance the need to keep the people of Beiseker moving and the cost of plowing and hauling snow.  The larger our snow removal budget and costs, the more risk that another program might have to be trimmed or that taxes may have to be increased!

If you think this needs to be changed, please contact a council member so that they can take your concerns to the rest of council.

(And let's pray for a lot of chinooks!)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Beiseker's Fire Hydrants

I heard that there were concerns voiced on Facebook about the effectiveness of Beiseker's fire hydrant system.  So here's the story as I understand it.
  • The volunteers on the Beiseker Fire Department can use as much water as they need to for practice and checking out the system.  That is treated water in our fire hydrants so we are paying the going rate for water just like everyone else in town.  Our volunteers are very aware of that and do their very best to conserve water during their practices and testing.
  • Not all of our hydrants are looped.  A looped hydrant can draw water from each direction and therefore maintain volumes more easily.  Hydrants on a branch can only draw water from one way.
  • We have a "Fire Pump" in Pumphouse #2 at the corner of 9th Street and 4th Ave.  When and if the firefighters need water at a higher pressure and volume, the fire pump can be turned on for them.
  • It is my understanding that Beiseker's hydrant system is adequate for the job.  That said, if the funds become available I would be very interested in making sure all of our hydrants are looped.
I hope that clears up some of the issues that were brought forward.  If there are any others, please let me know - you can contact me through the form on the right-hand side of my blog - or contact a member of council directly so they can bring your concerns forward.

As I've said before, I'm very pleased and proud of our volunteer fire department here in Beiseker and I will continue to do everything I can to make their job easier!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Community Centre Stage

After this year's Stage East performances, I received some complaints from members of our audience that they found it hard to see the stage from half way back in the hall.

It is true that our stage in the Beiseker Community Centre is much lower than stages in halls in other communities around us. After Saturdays show, I sat down at some of the tables toward the back of the hall and it was obvious to me that the vision of the stage was severely limited.

I don't know why those planning and building our new hall thirty years ago decided on such a low stage.

At this point in time, I don't know if anything can be done to raise that stage - but I plan to find out.  I'll let you know what I find.