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Roads, rats and possible flooding discussed by RM

The condition of roads, the presence of rats, and the possibility of flooding in the spring, were all topics of discussion at the RM of Weyburn's annual ratepayers meeting held Thursday evening in the Captain's Hall.

The condition of roads, the presence of rats, and the possibility of flooding in the spring, were all topics of discussion at the RM of Weyburn's annual ratepayers meeting held Thursday evening in the Captain's Hall.

A handful of ratepayers came out for the meeting, with reports given by the RM pest control officer, administrator Kim McIvor, Reeve Carmen Sterling, and the councillors who were present, including Ron Fellner, Heather Cugnet, Lloyd Culham and Doug Probe.

In bringing his report on pest control, Rick Wanner noted he did a sweep through the entire RM in the spring, and baited 25 sites where he suspected there was rat activity; by later in the year, only five of these are now considered to be serious, and will require more visits and baiting by the pest control officer in the coming months.

Broken down by division, Div. 1 had two sites; Div. 2 had six; Div. 3 had three; Div. 4 had three; Div. 5 had seven; and Div. 6 had four sites.

As area residents see him making his rounds and putting out bait,

"I know there are more rats out there, and we're never going to be rat-free. I'm sorry, but we're not Alberta," said Wanner.

Reeve Sterling spoke as she is the provincial chairman of SARM's rat eradication program; she said while the term "eradication" is in the program's name, she admitted it's "unrealistic" to think they can completely eliminate a species from the province. She noted the RM spends about $10-12,000 a year for rat control, as well as paying for bait for anyone who wants to use it.

The issue of potential flooding came up as Coun. Cugnet is the RM's representative on the area's EMO (emergency measures organization), which has begun monitoring which areas have the greatest potential for spring flooding.

She noted that as the ground is saturated with water from rains in the summer and fall, there isn't anywhere for the runoff to go, and thus flooding of some areas is inevitable. She urged ratepayers to call about any areas where ratepayers think there will be a problem, so they can try and deal with it ahead of time.

In Coun. Fellner's report, he noted he is particularly supportive of dust control in the RM, and said it is available on a 50-50 cost-share basis with ratepayers. On this basis, he said, a 100-metre stretch cost the ratepayer $225, while the longest stretch was 345 metres, which cost the ratepayer $770.

"With the grain industry and the oil industry, I think it's important that we supply that service, because it's a health hazard," he said, noting those two industries are the two biggest contributors to the dust problem on RM roads.

With a cost of $20,000 to the RM, he said this is less than two per cent of the tax dollars they take in from ag and oil sources, "so I think that's justifiable; not a penny comes out of Joe Farmer's pockets."

Fellner also suggested the RM should look into buying its own gravel pit for the amount of its annual budget that has to be spent on gravelling every year.

"If we bought one for $1 million, that's three years worth of gravel," he said, noting they could go in with a couple other RMs to spread the cost of the pit.

The Weyburn Golf Club is also in his division, said Fellner, and he noted the issue over their taxes is currently in limbo, as their previous five-year agreement ran out, and the school divisions indicated a reluctance to grant any sort of tax abatement. Currently, the golf course is lobbying the government to have them placed in a special category that would enable the RM to legally give them a tax abatement, which they cannot do currently.

Reeve Sterling noted that among her many responsibilities, she is a member of the District Planning Commission along with Coun. Fellner, with Mayor Debra Button and Coun. Rob Stephanson representing the city, and Jerry Jordens as the chairman.

"We see it as an opportunity to walk the talk of a regional system. We want to get to the point where we recognize which businesses are suitable for which municipality. If we compete against each other, neither of us will benefit," said the reeve.

One issue that is beginning to cause some difficulty, she said, is that of the disposal of human waste. One option they've considered is whether to build a lagoon for their own ratepayers, but the problem with that is, to make it the size that Environment requires, would be to build a facility that is too big than the RM needs, and then the clay liner could dry up and cause a whole new set of problems.

The other option is they are asking if the city's new sewage lagoon has the capacity to accommodate the needs of RM residents - and if so, they would like to establish a dumping station that RM residents (or their septic tank haulers) can use to dispose of their waste into. As the RM grows with more residents and more businesses each year, this will become more and more of an urgent issue, said the reeve.

In other matters, she noted the RM has made a commitment of $125,000 a year over 10 years for the Weyburn Hospital Foundation, as a way to make a decent contribution without hurting the RM in a shorter time-span.

With their agreement to pay the city for the use of recreation facilities, they initially started with $50,000 a year, but if the RM grows its assessment in fair market value, then that contribution would similarly increase. In this case, said the reeve, the RM's fair market assessment increased by 3.6 per cent, so this amount will be added to the $50,000 starting point for next year, or an additional $1,800.

Finally, RM administrator Kim McIvor gave his report, noting their total levy for 2010 was $1.45 million, although in the end, their total revenue was $1.92 million. Over the course of the year, they granted $55,000 for abatements, which are given new businesses, along with $57,000 in discounts given for early payment of property taxes.

One area where the RM saved a fair amount of money was in the repair of the golf course bridge, which only cost the RM $4,400, partly covered by a grant of $2,154.

The biggest expense to the RM was for transportation services; the budget was $1.63 million, but only $1.14 million was spent, partly because the golf course bridge was way below what they had budgeted for.

The RM spent $355,176 on gravel, after budgeting $338,000, but the extra cost came as some roads had to be gravelled twice, due to the wet year. Balancing that, road construction only cost the RM $130,000, but it was because they were only able to build two miles' worth, again due to the wet weather. Normally, said McIvor, the RM budgets around $200-250,000 for road construction.

Building inspections cost the RM $34,000, while building permits brought in $64,000. In the end, after some money was put away, the RM had a surplus of $169,000 on the year.

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