During the last Woodlands County Council meeting of June, Councillor Dave Kusch inquired about bringing in a user-pay dust mitigation plan for area residents seeking refuge from clouds of kicked-up dirt on their roads. He made a fully-supported motion to have Administration look into the matter and bring forward potential solutions with costs fully recovered through ratepayers wanting the service.
In the first Council meeting of July, Administration shared their recommendations. Director of Infrastructure Andre Bachand explained that the average cost for calcium is four dollars a metre, based on a 7m road width. "The current County policy identifies that residential dust control will be applied for 200 metres at the cost of $300 or $1.50/meter with a cost of $8.00 for each additional meter requested. Administration contacted the adjacent counties to Woodlands County and received a cost per meter that they charge residents. Should Council choose to provide Dust Control Program at full cost recovery, the $4/meter is based on a full load which will cover 2,000m within relatively close proximity of application sites," he explained.
"Given that it is currently July, advertising would take two to three weeks. The feasibility of applying dust control in mid-summer may not prove acceptable. Therefore, the recommendation is that Council does not provide a Dust Control Program for 2021, however, have Administration prepare a full cost recovery program and police revision for 2022."
Councillor Kusch felt that doing something still this year was a shot worth taking. "Can we advertise this opportunity for two to three weeks and see what interest we might have from residents before we completely squash it for this year? We might be surprised at the interest we have. I know it is coming in mid-summer, but there could still be people looking to do this."
Bachand said that they could go ahead and advertise it but brought up a concern. "If we get residents in different areas in the county requesting dust control, we may not be able to provide it based it on the $4 fee. That's based on a whole truckload within close proximity of each other." Bachand said that they could advertise it but could end up unable to provide the service depending on how spread out residents are that want it or the interest they receive. He said they could have that information back for the next meeting.
Councillor Govenlock felt that dust control was a relevant topic given the dry year. He said he had no problems assisting residents who want to address the dust. He said he also appreciated that Administration had collected data from nearby communities. "Even though we are mid-summer, if there is an appetite from residents to have that dust program available at full cost recovery, then I'm in favour of that. It would have to be subject to the fact that enough residents apply for it towards full load cost recovery. I'm comfortable with moving down that path of advertising and seeing if that interest is there and if it can be done on a cost-recovery basis."
Councillor Prestidge said that he heard from two residents on the weekend who were eager to get help for the dust issue. "They wanted to know if they could get it done, and they are willing to pay for it on the road North of the 43, where the No Jack road is. It's really, really bad, and there's lots of truck traffic on it. I think we could get almost two thousand meters just on that road." He added that he would personally reach out to those residents to let them know about the opportunity.
Councillor Govenlock felt that waiting to hear back in August could be negated by giving Administration the ability to do dust control once a full load was garnered. He motioned to allow them to proceed with dust control, at full cost recovery to Woodlands County, once the applications resulted in a full truckload. He also motioned to have Administration develop a policy for next year on an official Dust Maintenance Policy. The motion passed unanimously.
Residents interested in paying for dust control should immediately reach out to Woodlands County to be added to the list. The sooner a full load is requested by residents near each other, the sooner the dust mitigation occurs. Those interested are also encouraged to speak with their neighbours to help make sure their area reaches that necessary threshold.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press