Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slippery, Icy Sidewalks!

I'm getting numerous calls from Beiseker residents concerned about the letters they are receiving, regarding removal of ice from their sidewalks.  The Village is threatening them with a $250 fine if they ignore the ice and snow buildup on their front sidewalk.

I once again assure you that we just want compliance.  If you get a letter, please phone our Municipal Enforcement Officer Donna (her number is on the letter) and explain the situation to her.  As long as people are trying to deal with the ice with some chipping, sand, kitty litter, or ice-melt, fines will not be issued - but you must talk it over with Donna.

Also remember that sand is available free of charge at the Public Works compound, over by the Recycle Bins.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Railways Becoming a Liability to Small Centers

Elevators in Beiseker, circa 1970s.
A hundred years ago, Canada's railways were the lifeblood of rural communities like ours.  Towns popped up like mushrooms along the rail lines.  Elevators were built on the newly constructed sidings and folks gravitated to the new urban center.   The new towns were often far enough apart along the track so that a farmer could load is wagon with grain and drive his team into the elevator, unload, conduct business in town, pick up the mail, and be home for supper!

Farmers would sometimes donate land - or sell it below its value - to rail companies so that tracks might be built into their area.  Passenger service was daily, along with mail and goods delivery.  Cream was shipped to far off dairies.  Railways really opened up the West!

Oh, have the times changed!  For most Alberta rural communities, the railway has become a nuisance to be endured rather than an asset.  The grain elevators have mostly gone, and most of the sidings have been ripped out.  Farmers have to drive long distances to deliver their produce.  For the most part, now, the trains just roar through town without even slowing down.

Freight trains passing through at speed become hazardous to traffic and local residents, requiring better signals to ensure safety.  But it is my understanding that a municipality must pick up most of the cost of installing flashing lights, barriers, etc. at controlled level crossings.  Villages like Beiseker can't afford that!  So the train blows its horn at all hours of the night, as it roars through town.

Now the stations are gone, and the section crews with their little yellow scooters are gone.  These folks were an important part of their communities!  I seriously doubt that an industry could convince a rail company to stop and pick up or deliver to these small centers anymore, either.  Even a service crossing for a water line costs money; the municipality must pay the railway!

The tragic disaster at Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec, last year is still in our thoughts as trains continue to whistle through our communities carrying huge quantities of who-knows-what!  Getting information from the railways on what those black tank cars are carrying, is like pushing a string.

Passenger service is now a distant memory, even though the tracks end up in the center of the big cities, and commuters could use trains and cut down on automobile pollution and traffic.  In the dying days of rail passenger service about 40 years ago, it was a joke.  The "Dayliner" left and arrived at very inconvenient hours at both ends, and was less than reliable.

Years ago, many abandoned rail lines were donated to societies to build biking and hiking trails on.  From my viewpoint, most are just growing weeds.  When Alberta Trail-net is asked to clean-up their abandoned trackway, they say they expect volunteers from the nearby municipalities to do it!  In Beiseker, the abandoned CPR line is leased by the Beiseker Rail Museum.  It's fast turning into the Land That Time Forgot running right through the middle of the village.  That has to change!

I believe it's time the railway companies cracked open their own history books and rediscover where they came from, and where they made their millions.  They must reconnect with the communities they pass through and are so much a part of, whether they like it or not!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Original Plan for the Bassano Station

I was going through some of my old village council notes, and I came across a public document published by the Beiseker Railway Museum in early 2010.  It outlined the plans to relocate the Bassano Station to Beiseker and then for its restoration.  Here's a timeline and the amount of funds allocated to each phase:
  • March 2010 to June 2010 - Move station building to Beiseker; estimated cost $75,000
  • March 2010 to June 2010 - Remove asbestos from building; estimated cost $20,000
  • March 2010 to June 2010 - Construct new foundation for the building; estimated cost $50,000 
  • May 2010 to March 2011 - Renovate and restore the building on its new foundation; estimated cost $305,000
  • May 2010 to June 2010 - Install a trach line adjacent to station; estimated cost $30,000
  • July 2010 to August 2010 - Build a new passenger platform; estimated cost $20,000
All of the above mentioned work appears to be completed by the spring of 2011!

It also mentions that the Beiseker Railway Mueum apparently received a federal grant through the "Community Adjustment Fund" for the amount of $500,000.

I'm confused.  What happened?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

No Help from the Province

We had an inter-municipal meeting in Acme the other evening.  We talked blizzards and snow removal for quite a while.

It appears that most communities in this area, including Beiseker, have spent between $8,000 and $20,000 moving snow so far, this winter!  This is a big hit on the budgets of small municipalities like ours. 

I've had our Village Administrator check out to see if we could apply for emergency or disaster funding from the province.  I realize that our expenditures for snow removal pale by comparison to the flood damage in many Alberta municipalities, last spring.  However, these expenses come at us totally unexpected, and have stretched our snow budgets to the breaking point.

But the answer from the province was a flat "no."

I see no choice for all the small municipalities to either cut other services or raise taxes (or maybe both) to accommodate these huge increases in snow removal budgets.

I believe that the province should be helping its municipalities cope with these "snow emergencies," as much as possible.  The premier's travel expenses and the bureaucrats' salaries show me that they have (or maybe had) the money!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Busy Valentine's Day

I started early this morning, being interviewed on AIR 106.1 FM in Airdrie.  They were doing their annual Give From The Heart Radiothon to support Community Links, today!

I was able to tell them that the Community Links branch in Beiseker has the capabilities to help almost everyone who is dealing with a "life issue!"  I specifically mentioned the parenting skills program, which helps new mothers with every part of raising a baby, and talked about the Income Tax Service which has volunteers help seniors prepare and submit their income tax forms.  There are many other programs and services offered over at Community Links.  I urged all listeners to find out how Community Links here in Beiseker can help them. 

Don't forget the Valentines Day benefit at the Community Centre this evening, supporting the Knapp family.  Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Clearing Ice from Main Street

Today there were lots of smiles from the folks who have been driving down Beiseker's Main Street this past few weeks. 

The lumps, bumps and ruts in the snow and ice are history!  First Avenue received the same treatment.  Second Avenue is next.  Those huge piles of ice will be removed this next few days. 

Thank you so much for your patience and understanding.  Hopefully Public Works will be able to keep up with Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, so we'll avoid this happening again.  Don't ya just love winter?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Recycling Works in Beiseker!

Former village councilor Fred Walters attended our last council meeting to give a report on the workings of Beiseker Recycling.  Fred has always been a huge supporter of  recycling here in the village, and volunteers countless hours to that program!  He was able to report that the recycling programs here are meeting their goals, and are pretty much breaking even as far as cost is concerned.

Village home owners pay a small bi-monthly fee to have weekly curbside pick-up of most common recyclables - paper, plastic, metal cans, glass, and cardboard.  Residents can also recycle used oil, old batteries, old electronics, paint and paint cans free of charge, at the recycling depot behind the Public Works Shop.

I believe we have one of the most comprehensive recycling programs for a municipality our size anywhere in Alberta!  We should be proud of that.

Most of the materials we recycle get turned into new products which helps reduce Beiseker's overall carbon footprint.  It costs less in energy to recycle a material into a new product, than it does to use raw materials.  For example, producing paper products is cheaper when using recycled paper than producing paper from wood pulp in a paper mill.  Overall, it requires less energy and therefore produces less environmental pollutants, mainly carbon dioxide.

I am concerned that the supporters of creating energy by burning what is now recycled, have not done the math.  Incineration might actually raise the amount of pollutants (CO2) and therefore enlarge our carbon footprint!