Tuesday, August 10, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 32 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“It looks awesome. We’ve had tons of compliments on how the ice is.”
- Tracey Linderman  
- on the ice in Coleman   
   

 

A Fragile Lens- Nathen Gallagher
Sometimes I'm not certain whether council baffles me in spite of the fact that I've been covering it for five years or because of the fact that I've been covering it for five years –– but it sure does baffle me now and then.
The matter of the new bridge that is to be built in Sentinel is the latest issue where council's process and actions are more than a little confusing.
At the July 20 council meeting, CAO Gordon Lundy asked for council to approve a routine matter. He explained that the single lane bridge across the Crowsnest River in Sentinel has become too old and increasingly unsafe. In 2007 it was repaired because heavy vehicles could no longer cross safely. These repair costs were reimbursed fully by Alberta Transportation, and allowed Fortis and CPR to cross the river to carry out work. Some local residents also use the bridge.
Lundy was asking for council's stamp of approval on engineering design work to replace the bridge. The cost of this design work would be approximately $100,000, to be carried out by Stantec, and the cost would be fully reimbursed by Alberta Transportation. The cost of the bridge construction, to be carried out after the design work, would also be fully funded by the province as well.
Simple, right? We get a new, modern bridge over the river at no cost to the municipality.
Not so simple for council, as it turned out. Councillor Dean Ward suggested that the contract should not have been given to Stantec, and should instead have been tendered out to possibly save money. Since the municipality is not paying any of the costs in the first place, I'm not sure why this was a concern, but all right.
Lundy explained that going back and starting the entire process over again with tendering would cause long delays in the replacement of an unsafe, rotting bridge, and that the province wants to get the work done quickly. Councillor Ward did not appear satisfied with this answer.
However, instead of making a decision, the mayor moved council on to the next matter of business and council went on with its meeting, leaving Lundy sitting with an unfulfilled request for the next two weeks.
 
He brought the matter again before council on August 3, once again requesting a decision. He warned council that if they did not wish to approve the project, the province would likely take its money to another project somewhere else. He said that there is a long cue for provincial projects. In addition, he noted, Stantec is using previously completed geotechnical and environmental studies from the area, which reduces the overall cost to the province since those studies do not have to be redone.
Council continued to fret about this seemingly simple matter. Councillor John Salus, apparently not recalling what was said at the previous meeting, asked if anyone really uses the bridge, seemingly suggesting that it might be better to let an unsafe, rotting bridge sit there than to accept a new bridge for free.
Lundy repeated that residents use the bridge, and his request, sitting in front of all councillors, stated that Fortis and CPR cross the bridge with equipment as well. He repeated to council that there was no cost to the taxpayers.
At this point, Councillor Salus asked what the province's share of the overall costs would be, perhaps not realizing that Lundy had just answered that very question, and that the answer was printed all over his request to council.
Lundy once again, for perhaps the fourth or fifth time over the course of this multi-meeting discussion, told council that the province was to fund 100 percent of the project cost, and that the municipality would have an agreement with them saying as much.
Councillor Salus then asked if there was a guarantee that the full amount would be paid, again seemingly asking a question that had just been answered. Lundy said that if the province did not guarantee it, council would not have to proceed.
To put the icing on this confusing cake, two councillors then voted against approving the fully funded engineering design. Councillors Ward and MacLeod both put their hands up in opposition, though they gave no specific reason why. I could speculate based on what I know about their political leanings and beliefs, but I won't put any words in their mouths.
At least it was approved, and we can now get a free bridge. But I'm still baffled as to how this could be such a confusing matter, and why some councillors seem to think it would be in the community's best interests to turn it down.
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