By Cole Parkinson
With a new year started, the Dust Mitigation Policy was brought back for approval by Municipal District of Taber council.
The policy comes forward on a yearly basis and was in front of council during their March 8 meeting. A few changes have been made to the policy, but by in large, the policy remained similar to years past.
“For the most part, the policy has remained the same. However, in previous meetings, discussion was brought up to include some wording around allowing road users to use water. In the policy, we geared it more to agriculture, but it would work towards anybody — seeding, harvest, manure hauling, any types of operations where it’s an intensive truck loading for a short period of time. We have included some wording in the policy to accommodate that,” explained Stu Weber, director of Public Works.
At the moment, pricing is the same as 2021 at $1.25/linear foot and application forms were updated to clarify staking requirements for residents to verify the location in an effort to minimize application errors by the application crew.
“The pricing will stay the same for 2022. So far I have not been notified about any increase, however, that wouldn’t surprise me if it does come up. I’ve been in recent conversations with the supplier and pricing is still the same or very similar,” added Weber.
He also touched on the fact forms have been updated and been taken out of the actual policy. By doing this, it allows administration to make changes to the form without bringing it back to council with every minor change.
“One other change we made was to remove the actual dust control application forms from the policy and have them as standalone documents. It allows administration to change those forms depending on what’s happening just to make those spur of the moment changes that are required based on experience so they don’t always have to come to council,” explained Weber. “Any major changes would be done on the policy and that would go through council.”
Looking back at the previous two years, administration expects costs to be right in line with what they’ve seen.
“It was just over $183,000 (in 2020) and in 2021 it was $179,000 and change. There is a minor decrease in the amount of dust control that has been purchased over the past couple of years since we changed the policy, but it has been very consistent. There has been a few people that are within $4,000, so that’s about 10 short applications. We have had calls saying ‘I’ll do it in the spring or in the fall, but I don’t need to do it in both.’ Those are the numbers associated with it as well,” continued Weber.
Council also asked if forms would be available online.
“Yes, they both will be. The application form for the actual dust control, so the May 15 deadline and the August 15 deadline, those ones are. If council approves it, it will be available online as well and be filled online and emailed in to us,” replied Weber.
A question came up around a few points under the guidelines section of the policy. In particular, council asked about 5. Agriculture feedlots will be assigned costs for applications adjacent to affected ratepayers and 6. Agriculture storage (ie potatoes, beets, etc.) related hauls will be exempt from the dust mitigation requirements. Council asked if there was a chance to charge per day or per hour for feedlots.
“It’s definitely possible. I guess my concern with that would be how do we verify any sort of truck counts. We would rely heavily on the producer to give us that information,” responded Weber.
“I’m just concerned feedlots will be assigned costs for applications adjacent to affected ratepayers. Whereas maybe some other industries might haul just as much and not be charged those costs,” stated Coun. John DeGroot.
Weber did explain he hoped to shift to a more proactive approach to dust mitigation instead of being reactive.
“I suppose there is a possibility because we do have in some of the development agreements, we do make it a part of the agreements to supply that dust control. That may be something we can look at going forward as well, is that when any sort of intensive operation gets going, maybe we need to look on the development side at the beginning and then start to assign some of those instead of trying to be reactive. This policy, I will admit, is a bit more reactive in those regards. Once those problems become apparent then we’ll deal with it. I think that is a good point and we can look at something more proactive,” he said.
While costs could come back higher, council did inquire if that was a possibility or if they were locked in. Weber explained if costs did come back higher, it would be brought back to a future meeting.
“If costs do come in high and we have to reassess that, that will have to come back to this room. Council will have to approve the rate increase.”
A motion to review and approve the proposed changes to the Dust Mitigation Policy for the 2022 season was carried.