With a few major construction projects underway, Pincher Creek residents can look forward to an improved community.
According to the recently released third-quarter operations report, improvements are being made to the town’s water and sewage systems and Fairview Cemetery might see a second columbarium added.
The document, spanning July to September 2021, was introduced to the public by council on Oct. 25.
Changes to storm drainage system
In July, two storms swept through Pincher Creek in a torrential downpour that led to flooding on the streets. The town has developed a solution to help mitigate this issue.
Alexa Levair, manager of operations and infrastructure, says weather events like these will become more common as climate change continues. She says that although the amount of rainfall has not increased, the speed at which it drops has intensified, leading to an increase in water buildup on roadways.
With this in mind, the town plans to enlarge stormwater lines to accommodate a heavier flow of rain. It is one of many projects that will be included in the infrastructure master plan, a document that is currently being developed. The plan will be used to advise town council on construction projects completed over the next decade.
Town administration is currently applying for a federal disaster-mitigation grant, which could potentially cover 40 per cent of costs related to alleviating drainage issues. Levair says the town anticipates $2 million worth of stormwater upgrades over the next 10 years.
She estimates the plan will be completed by December.
Twinning of sanitary force main
Pincher Creek currently has one force main, a pipeline that transports sewage to the lagoon just north of the community, and twinning will add a second.
It makes sense to have two, Levair says, because if something happens to one, sewage flow can be diverted to the second line, preventing disasters.
Construction is already underway, but will not be finished until spring 2022. Costs for the project total $4 million, but the provincial government has offered a rebate of 52 per cent.
A hiccup in construction occurred Oct. 5 when a private contractor working on the project accidentally severed the town’s active sewage pipeline, creating the very problem the new addition would solve.
Alberta Environment was immediately notified, and a team of town staff worked all night, successfully repairing the break by morning.
Eleven vacuum trucks worked at the site, at various manholes and just south of the creek in Lowland Heights, pulling wastewater out of the pipe and transporting it to the lagoon before it reached the point of damage.
“The operations staff just went above and beyond and we couldn’t be more proud of our staff,” says Levair, adding that much of the crew was up working until 4 a.m.
She says creating a second line would make crises like these easier to manage, as wastewater could be transferred to the unbroken pipe while work is being done on the other and daily activities would not be impacted.
Water pump replacement
The town is in the process of replacing its outdated water pumps. The project has been ongoing all year and will continue into 2022.
Levair says it’s being funded through the provincial government’s Municipal Stimulus Program, given to all municipalities to keep infrastructure projects and the greater economy running during the pandemic. Pincher Creek has received about $365,000 for the project.
The town will consider adding a second columbarium to Fairview Cemetery.
The current columbarium, a 10-foot granite structure with individual niches where cremated remains can be laid to rest, is getting full.
Of the 72 niches available, 24 are occupied and 23 are reserved, meaning over half are taken.
Coun. Wayne Elliott says adding a second would help keep up with demand, create more burial options for families and ensure the cemetery doesn’t become overcrowded.
“What better way of conserving space than going up instead of down,” he says.
The original, constructed about five years ago, is located at the north end of the cemetery on top of a stone walkway, where mourners can gather.
The new addition would be adjacent to it in the same space and would be identical.
The cost of the addition has not been determined yet, but will be discussed in an upcoming budget meeting.
Elliott says a hidden advantage to using columbariums is that families can have the niches reopened regularly by a caretaker and can continuously add memorabilia, a process that is cumbersome with traditional graves.
“If it’s Christmastime, we would put pictures of the family together in there. For their anniversary we can do something different,” he says.
Having multiple columbariums was always a part of Elliott’s plan. He envisions adding a third eventually, along with a podium for mourners to commemorate their friends and relatives, and a flower garden.
“The very first committee I picked was the cemetery committee in 2004, and shortly after that I started pushing for a columbarium. It took that long to get there,” he says.
Monitoring of wildfire smoke
An air-quality sensor has been installed at the public works shop in Pincher Creek.
The device is part of a pilot study monitoring wildfire smoke. It registers the amount of smoke in the air on any given day and uploads real-time data to the web, where it can be viewed through a user-friendly map interface.
“Residents can see localized data instead of having to look at air quality from Lethbridge,” Levair says.
The study is being conducted by Alberta Environment and Parks and the town installed the monitor in the community at its request.
Data can be viewed online at bit.ly/3kb4vYu.
The operations department received more Alberta1Call notifications in the third quarter than in any other period so far this year.
From July to September, 107 notifications were received, up 17 per cent from the second quarter and 35 per cent from the first.
Levair describes Alberta1Call as a system that emails updates to operations departments across the province, providing information on construction projects happening in a given area. They’re sent out by contractors, developers and homeowners so workers can locate overhead power lines and underground gas lines and piping systems, to avoid damage during construction.
Levair adds that weather impacts how many updates are received, as construction slows down in colder seasons, but with the prolonged fall this year, she expects to see more updates than usual in the fourth quarter.
Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze