Stettler County reeve worried about bridge closures and farm community

·3 min read

Stettler County’s reeve voiced concerns about the way bridge closures are being handled in the municipality. The discussion came about after council looked an an engineering report at their April 13 regular meeting.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy presented the bridge load evaluations report which had been prepared by Manager of Engineering and Facilities Brad Plehnert.

The report noted it included the results of a more thorough level 2 examination of five bridges in Stettler county with 10 tonne load limits.

Bridge file 06681 (Twp Rd 34-4 west of Scollard Road) wasn’t able to be examined as weather problems prevented it.

Bridge file 06965 (Rge Rd 17-0 north of Twp Rd 41-0) had deficiencies that compelled the inspector to recommend closing the bridge; it was stated the bridge has been closed indefinitely.

Bridge file 07002 (Rge Rd 17-5 north of Sec. Hwy. #601, “Prairie Grove”) was recommended to have its load limit cut to five tonnes from 10.

Two other bridge files, 07577 (Big Valley access) and 73092, were recommended to remain at 10 tonnes.

Cassidy stated hopefully the information in this report will help the county get provincial funding to repair the bridges, adding the county has seen no such funding in 2022.

Reeve Larry Clarke, attending the meeting through teleconference, stated he was concerned about the effect closing a bridge and cutting the load limit on the Prairie Grove one would have on the farm community; he wondered what the weight of a tractor with an air seeder and grain tank would weigh.

“I just know it’s going to be an issue,” said the reeve.

Clarke also asked about the county procedure to close a bridge. “I’m worried people are still going to go across it,” said Clarke, noting he was also concerned about the closure’s effect on school buses and county graders.

Director of Operations Rick Green noted the bridge in question is a land access bridge and county staff placed “bridge closed” barricades on it. However, it seemed the barricades had been set aside by someone so county staff are looking to make those barricades more difficult to remove.

Green stated the Big Valley access bridge is on a shorter inspection schedule to keep a closer eye on it. He also noted that bridge is the property of the provincial government and is located on a provincial government road.

Cassidy stated the county could publicize the issue to let the public know if they cross a bridge in excess of the reduction, they’re responsible for damage.

Coun. Justin Stevens asked how liability affects this issue. Green responded Stettler County has followed all rules and regulations regarding the bridges along with posting the issues so that should address liability.

When it came to the vote on a motion to accept the engineering report as information, Clarke said he would vote in favour of accepting it, but was still concerned about how Stettler County handles bridge closures.

“It’s easy for us to just say ‘go around,’ but it doesn’t happen,” said the reeve, predicting that residents in every division may potentially disregard the restrictions.

Green noted the next steps would be either to wait for provincial government funding to repair the bridges or use Stettler County tax dollars to repair them.

Green stated if the county uses its own money the province doesn’t always reimburse ratepayers.

He also estimated a tender for the Big Valley access bridge repairs would be in the $200,000 neighbourhood but less if the county did the work “in house.”

Coun. Ernie Gendre pointed out a tractor pulling farm equipment, depending on the length of the bridge, may not necessarily have its entire weight on the restricted bridge at one time.

Councillors unanimously accepted the engineering report as information.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

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