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Athabasca County unveils dust control just in time

Councillors divided on policy some call ‘perfect’
Coun. Rob Minns called the new dust control policy perfect, praising administrations work on cutting down red tape.

ATHABASCA – Athabasca County approved a new dust control program that simplifies the administrative process and will give ratepayers better control over what section of road is treated.

The new policy dictating the dust control program, includes new language around dispute resolution, additional cost-sharing treatments for corner properties, and late fees for anyone who misses the application deadline.

Coun. Rob Minns spoke highly of the policy, which combined two policies into one and condensed the information into two pages from the original 16.

“It really nails it down, it’s perfect,” said Minns during the Jan. 30 council meeting. “Due to timelines, we really need to get this in so people know what’s going on.” The county has until Feb. 28 to advertise the 2024 program.

Other councillors, including Joe Gerlach and Tracy Holland, were less sure. Holland had concerns that the bylaw didn’t do enough to ensure school bus stops weren’t obscured by dust, and Gerlach took issue with a late penalty. Ratepayers have until the first Friday in April to apply and are subject to a late fee of $250 if they miss it.

“I do not like any policies that talk about handing out penalties to ratepayers. I think we need to do it another way. I think it should be at the discretion of infrastructure,” said Gerlach.

Applicants who miss the deadline may not be guaranteed to receive the dust control treatment at all — a disclaimer was added to the policy stating that if there is no administrative capacity to handle the late application, it may be refused.

New positives

A big change for ratepayers will be where the dust control gets applied. Each applicant is eligible for a 50/50 cost share with the county on 200 metres of road outside their property, or two 200 metre stretches if they live on an intersection of a range road and a township road.

Before, the 200 metres had to be centred on the driveway, but as councillors pointed out, that may not always be the location that was causing ratepayers issues. Instead, the infrastructure department will work individually with each applicant to find the most suitable place for the treatment.

“I like that ratepayers can work with infrastructure to put it where they need it, it could be a side road that blows right into their yard versus their driveway,” said Coun. Gary Cromwell. “There’s a lot of opportunity for things to be done right here, and I’m happy with it.”

Jocelyn Whaley, Athabasca County’s director of infrastructure, said the county didn’t have the cost numbers for 2024 — she won’t have them until March — but she did have the numbers from 2023. It costs 18 cents per litre, and each 200-metre section uses 2,200 litres, bringing the cost to $386 total for one application. If this policy had been in place last year, each application would have cost the ratepayer $198.

A proposed amendment to define what the dust control application process referred to failed after it deadlocked in a 4-4 vote, with reeve Brian Hall voting against the amendment alongside Minns, and councillors Ashtin Anderson and Camille Wallach. Gerlach, Cromwell, Holland, and Coun. Natasha Kapitaniuk voted in favour.

A motion to rescind the two prior policies and introduce Policy 3405 – Dust Control Program passed with a 6-2 vote. Holland and Gerlach were opposed, and Coun. Kelly Chamzuk was absent.

Cole Brennan

About the Author: Cole Brennan

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