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Community Centre ownership and whistle cessation at railway crossings discussed by Coaldale town council at recent meeting

Posted on October 18, 2016 by Sunny South News

By J.W. Schnarr
For the Sunny South News

Community Centre ownership
The Town of Coaldale is taking over ownership of the Coaldale Community Centre in an effort to provide some financial relief to two organizations who work hard to improve the community.
Community Services Manager Stephanie Wierl brought the community centre issue before council during their regular meeting last week. Prior to discussion, Coun. Jack Van Rijn declared a conflict of interest and declined from voting on the issue.
The community centre is co-owned by the Coaldale and District Agricultural Society and the Kinsmen Club of Coaldale. Both groups were heavily involved in both the construction of the centre, as well as a number of other projects in Coaldale.
The centre is located on town-owned land. Both the Ag Society and Kinsmen pay insurance on the building itself, and the town covers liability insurance for anyone entering the premises. The town is also responsible for operation and maintenance of the building. Due to their involvement in having the building constructed, both organizations use the facility rent-free.
The Ag Society pays the town $5,000 every year for operations, but recent changes to provincial funding for the society has forced the three organizations to begin discussions on how to best manage and maintain the building.
The Ag Society is no longer able to contribute financially to operations, but Wierl said the society is open to giving full ownership of the building to the Kinsmen or the Town of Coaldale. She noted the Kinsmen have also expressed support for the idea of the town taking over ownership of the building.
Wierl said the town had the option of taking control of the building, and they would have to consider whether or not to continue allowing the Kinsmen, Kinettes, and Ag Society to continue using the facility rent-free.
“The annual rental fees for all three organizations is just under $3,000,” she said. Further, the organizations involved would save money, as both the Kinsmen and Ag Society would no longer be required to insure the building themselves.
In 2016, the town is expected to see $10,183.71 in revenue and $34,180.77 in expenses, for an operating shortfall of $23,997.06 from the community centre. The building operates with a similar loss every year.
The town also had the option of removing themselves from the partnership altogether and forcing the Kinsmen and Ag Society to cover costs involved. This would see a savings for the town of close to $50,000 but would likely result in the loss of use of the facility for the community — and the only facility with a kitchen approved by Alberta Health Services.
Following discussion, council passed a motion to take full responsibility and ownership of the community centre, while still allowing the Ag Society, Kinsmen and Kinettes rental-free access to the facility.
Whistle Cessation
Safety upgrades at railway crossings could cost millions if whistle cessation were to go through, according to estimates based on other intersection upgrades.
Interim Infrastructure Manager Henry Vanderpyl addressed council during their regular meeting last Monday with a report on what the town could do to address train whistles blowing at crossings in Coaldale. He recommended the town take no other action at this time save for a safety assessment at one of the intersections at a cost of $7,500.
During discussion, however, Vanderpyl said upgrades to address safety issues at each of the crossings could run in the $450,000 range.
“And when I say $450,000, that doesn’t include changes to the highway, because you should have right-turn lanes and merge lanes,” he said.
“You are looking at a minimum of $1.5 to 2 million dollars,” said Coun. Bill Martens.
“(At that cost) I would have very serious reservations with supporting whistle cessation.”
He added there were other community projects, which could be better served with that money.
Coun. Jack Van Rijn said the costs might not be as high as that. He said he had looked at crossings in other towns and determined large upgrades may not be needed. Crossings in Coalhurst and Fort Macleod lack arms and fencing, for example.
“Let’s see what we’re up against instead of just assuming we’re going to need to do this and that,” he said.
A complicating factor could be the number of authorities involved in a whistle cessation project. There are three road authorities involved in the four railway crossings in Coaldale. These include: Intersection of Highway 845 and Highway 3, where Alberta Transportation is the road authority; intersection of 30 Street and Highway 3, where Lethbridge County is the road authority; intersection of 8 Street and Highway 3, where Lethbridge County is the road authority; and intersection of 11 Street and Highway 3, where the Town of Coaldale is the road authority.
Van Rijn stated his support for all crossings being looked at, citing what he saw as likely several years of planning before cessation could take place.
“It’s quite important,” he said.
“For myself, it’s very annoying.”
He said he could find people along the entire route who were also frustrated by the noise of the trains, and that what was happening with the trains in practice did not fall in line with what they were required to do.
“If they were to do what they like to do versus what they are supposed to do, it’s two different things.”
Vanderpyl said he felt it would be good for the town to spend money for the assessment of the crossing the town is responsible for, as parts of that assessment could be used for information requested as part of a transportation master plan and as information required by Transport Canada.
“I think it’s good value for dollars spent,” he said. “Also, if you pursue whistle cessation, it’s a requirement.”
The safety assessment would have to be completed by a professional engineering firm with appropriate experience. The cost of a safety assessment for one crossing is expected to be about $7,500.
Vanderpyl said the safety assessment could identify a number of issues at the crossing and allow administration to have a better idea of some of the potential costs involved.
“The $7,500 report, I will support that, but anything more, I would have very serious reservations,” said Martens.
Following discussion, council agreed to spend up to $7,500 on a safety assessment for a single crossing. Coun. Jacen Abrey was the lone opposed vote.

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