By Enrique Massot
The County News
Rocky View council’s initiative to consider resuming sewage servicing to the Lakes of Muirfield should send chills down the spine of residents caring about how their taxes are being spent.
By the time the County stopped trucking and treating sewage from Muirfield in 2015, it had spent over $1.7 million over seven years in subsidies to the Wheatland County subdivision.
County administrators, to their credit, have advised council in no uncertain terms that they recommend staying away from Muirfield, after negotiating for almost two years to free the County from the losing-money venture.
In spite of that, council is going to look into the issue in a March workshop. In Rocky View, a council’s workshop stands by discussion behind closed doors of topics that could be debated in public.
Providing sewage treatment and disposal to a subdivision in another municipality was an unusual decision eight years ago and was supposed to open the door to provincial grants reserved for regional service providers.
Such grants, however, never materialized—and administration made clear to council in December that no grants are available at this time.
What, then, would be Coun. Bruce Kendall’s motivation in dragging the County into this venture again? Utitilies don’t make money—with luck, they recover costs and are for a large part cause of indebtedness in urban centres. In addition, Muirfield residents pay taxes to Wheatland County—not to Rocky View.
Nevertheless, Muirfield was built on the assumption the development would be serviced by Rocky View and a four-km pipe was built from Muirfield to Dalroy.
Follow-up plans to connect Dalroy to Langdon by sewage pipe at an estimated cost of $18 million never materialized. As a result, sewage from Muirfield was trucked to a lift station near Chestermere from where it was piped to the Langdon treatment plant.
What Rocky View residents got?
No connections to the system were made available to Dalroy residents. Instead, they got an ugly facility across the road and the inconvenience of trucks coming and going on the only graveled access road residents use.
Since Rocky View got out of the agreement with Muirfield, sewage from the subdivision has been trucked for treatment to the Town of Strathmore—another expensive option.
An 18-km Muirfield-Strathmore pipe was considered at a cost estimated at $8 to $10 million but failed to materialize, while a plan for a pipe to a sewage lagoon near Cattleland, north of Strathmore has apparently being abandoned as well.
The Strathmore Standard, which has extensively covered the issue, describes the servicing woes that Muirfield residents face.
In December, Rocky View administration told council that terminating the agreement with Muirfield not only ended the County’s $250,000 annual subsidy; it also freed some of the Langdon wastewater treatment plant’s limited capacity that can become available for projects in Balzac, Conrich and Langdon.
Muirfield residents, meanwhile, pay to truck their sewage from Dalroy to the Town of Strathmore at a high cost.
Lakes of Muirfield project manager Jim Souza told Rocky View in December that plans are to build over 800 residences and that 115 homes have been already sold.
Wheatland requires Muirfield to provide a servicing solution “via a pipe wastewater system constructed, licensed and permitted by Alberta Environment and Parks,” as noted in the County’s direct control bylaw 2015-39.
As much as they may sympathize with Wheatland County residents’ problems, Rocky View taxpayers would rightly expect their elected officials to work for the welfare of their own municipality. If there were possibilities for affordable servicing, there are plenty of residents who could benefit from the opportunity.