BARRHEAD- For the first time in 16 years, after Oct. 18's municipal election, the County of Barrhead will see a new face represent Division 5.
Division 5 goes from Range Road 40, commonly referred to as auto wreckers road going west to the Westlock County border. Its northern border is the Shoal Lake area with Sunnybend Road being the border.
Although Coun. Darrell Troock has hinted at several council meetings in the last few months that he did not plan to run for re-election, he did not officially make his intentions known until last week.
Troock and his wife came to Barrhead in about 2000 where he got involved in the real estate industry and his wife, Tara, took a job with the Alberta Distance Learning Centre.
He first was elected to office in a 2005 byelection when Coun. Roy Ulmer moved out of the division.
At the time, Troock said there was a lot of discussion about subdividing to increase the tax base.
"I was concerned that they might open it up and let it go wild. We had moved from the Stony Plain/Spruce Grove area, where they allowed massive amounts of subdividing properties for years. The result was the loss of a lot of good farmland," he said.
Shortly after being elected, the county reviewed its Land-Use Bylaw and changed the rules governing the subdividing of properties.
"We allowed more subdividing. We held it to one undeveloped lot at a time, not a whole bunch of undeveloped acreages that would drive down the prices," Troock said. "We felt the best people that should profit from the land should be the farmers, not developers.”
He added that through the Land-use Bylaw, council tries to protect viable farmland, limiting development to less suitable parcels for farming.
"Fifteen acres was our goal," Troock said, adding there was some opposition from developers who wanted to be able to subdivide larger plots to keep costs down. "That way they did not have to worry about sewer and putting in a septic system, they could just pump it out above ground."
One of the projects or decisions Troock is most proud of is the extension of the town's waterline to Neerlandia.
Before that, the hamlet's residents got their water from Baird Lake.
"It isn't much of a lake, it is more of a sleugh and the water needed a lot of treating, which was costly, to make it work," he said.
It was through the extension of the line, Troock said, that the Barrhead municipalities realized that the town's water treatment plant was not up to the task of meeting the water standards of the time.
The result was that the municipalities formed a committee, which eventually became the Barrhead Regional Water Commission, to look for grants to upgrade the water treatment plant.
"It increased our costs, but it saved about $5 million to upgrade the treatment plant, so it was a good decision from both councils," he said.
The total cost of the upgrade was $12.9 million.
Another project that stands out in Troock's mind was his involvement in a 2008 committee that saw the installation of a two-kilowatt grid-connected solar system on the municipal building.
"It was called 'Lasso the Sun'. We were the first of ten municipalities that got to help demonstrate the benefits of solar and reducing our carbon footprint and being able to put electricity back into the grid," he said.
Troock also pushed for the reestablishment of an economic development committee (EDC) in about 2012. He said for many years, the county did not have an EDC and when it did, it was in partnership with the town.
He noted the committee was instrumental in the creation of a joint promotional video for the community as well as acquiring the necessary land for the Kiel Industrial Park.
He is also proud of the work he has done as part of Barrhead and District Social Housing Association (BDSHA).
The association manages four long-term seniors’ facilities in Barrhead including Hillcrest Lodge, Klondike Place, Golden Crest Manor, and Jubilee Manor. The area the association covers includes Barrhead, Fort Assiniboine, Swan Hills and Big Lakes County.
Troock joined the committee a year after joining the council, often serving as its chairperson.
"It was in pretty dire straits when I started, but through a good [CAO Dorothy Schorr] and some good boards, we brought it back to a very positive feature in the community, especially with the [new Hillcrest Lodge] being completed," he said.
Troock is also pleased with the progress he has seen at the Johnston Industrial Airport.
As part of the joint airport committee with the town, he saw the installation of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which is a system used to enhance and improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System.
"It is used more by commercial and medivac companies. Our airport is very capable, especially for the size of our community," he said.
Troock said he was also honoured to be able to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity celebrating Canada’s 150 birthday as part of the committee that welcomed the Athabasca River Brigade to Fort Assiniboine. To celebrate the sesquicentennial, 170 paddlers travelled from Jasper to Fort Assiniboine 170 in 15, 25-foot voyageur-styled canoes. More than 1,000, including Alberta's Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, attended the event to welcome the paddlers to the hamlet.
"It's been a good 16 years. I have no regrets. I went into it because I loved my community and I am leaving it the same way," he said. " I have the greatest respect for all the people I have served with. I hope someone comes forward and takes my chair and enjoys it as much as I have.”
Troock added he would not have been able to serve the community as long as he did if it were not for the support of his wife and family.
He also noted that although he is retiring from council, he and Tara have no immediate plans to leave the community.
"I may be ready for retirement, but Tara is not, so we'll still be around," he said.