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At County Council: More talk for Heartland

Council addresses Heartland task force, while residents gear up for by-election.
WEB Sturgeon County file
Sturgeon County residents will head to the polls for a byelection on Sept. 17. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Heartland residents walked away empty-handed in terms of monetary compensation this week for the effects of big industry on their lives, but Sturgeon County’s mayor said those dollars aren’t off the table just yet.

County council voted 5-0 Tuesday to continue talks with stakeholder groups to improve quality of life for residents in the Industrial Heartland region (Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr absent).

They also voted 4-1 to create a single place where Heartland residents could get information on roads, air quality and emergencies in their neighbourhood, investigate a dark sky policy for the Heartland, look into an improved resident notification system, host an air quality information event and research ways to improve air quality monitoring in the region (Coun. Dan Derouin opposed, Bokenfohr absent).

Council passed these motions to address the 14 recommendations the Heartland Residents Task Force made last June. The task force had been struck to address concerns from the 30-some people who still live in the Heartland about the impact of heavy industry on their lives.

Council’s motions addressed the majority of the task force’s recommendations but not the five that called for financial compensation – such as tax relief, compensation for lost value, or a sequel to the Voluntary Purchase Plan (which offered some residents buy-outs when the Heartland was first established) – for landowners.

County administration noted municipalities are not obliged to compensate people for lost value caused by land-use changes, and that doing so could create a precedent that would affect all county residents. Tax relief for Heartland residents would cost about $48,000 a year.

As for a new buy-out plan, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw told former members of the task force sitting in the gallery that the original buy-out plan was in place when there were seven refineries proposed for the region, and that times had changed since then. Council was committed to addressing quality of life issues and would talk more with Heartland residents to find out which areas – roads, air pollution or others – they wanted investment in first.

In an interview, Hnatiw said council did need to consider compensation such as tax relief for Heartland residents but needed to work with residents to figure out how best to support them.

“If you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on air monitoring, perhaps in the end those residents would rather see that spent on road improvements,” she said.

Former Heartland task force chairperson Marty Derouin said this was a good first step by council, but only a first step.

“There’s a lot more work to be done.”

Election Day Tuesday

Division 2 residents will have one last chance to vote for their new councillor Tuesday if they miss the advance polls this week.

Lynda Moffat, Kristin Toms, and Rudy van Woerkom are running to replace Susan Evans as Division 2 councilor. Election Day is Sept. 17 and any Canadian citizen who’s 18 or older and who will be living in Division 2 on Election Day can vote in the byelection.

Voters have three chances left to cast their ballots. The Sturgeon County Centre advance poll will be open Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the county’s election website reports. You can call returning officer Jesse Sopko to have election workers come to you if you can’t make it to the advance polls.

After that comes the regular poll on Sept. 17, which will have voting stations at Cardiff Hall and the Pinnacle Ridge Estates Homeowners’ Association Community Centre from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters will need to bring a piece of authorized ID with their name and address on it (typically a government-issued photo ID) to get their ballots. If you have a mail-in ballot, you must get it to Sopko by 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17.

Byelection questions should go to Sopko at 780-939-8377.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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