By Cole Parkinson
With spring officially underway, the Municipal District of Taber is in road ban season.
During the M.D.’s policy committee meeting on March 11, they got a chance to review their Road Ban Policy.
“The policy is designed to preserve the M.D.’s infrastructure for the safe use and enjoyment of the public. The authority to impose a road ban is delegated to the municipal administrator or designate. Council will be advised prior to placement of a road ban. The director of public works or designate can enter into road use agreements or issue overweight permits. Special permits and exemptions for agricultural producers are available as listed in the policy,” stated administration’s memo.
As temperatures are due to warm up over the next several weeks, administration has been reviewing the policy in preparation.
“So the Road Ban Policy was brought to my attention so I’ve been looking at it closely obviously with the weather conditions going on here lately. The policy states the CAO has the authority to put on the road bans and the director of public works is authorized to do road use agreements and issue overweight permits,” said Stu Weber, director of public works. “Council will be notified before any of these road bans get placed, it’s written in the policy and I’m sure you are all aware of that.”
With agriculture being a major staple in the M.D., administration is focused on providing road use agreements for producers in the area.
“At the end of the day, and I’m not sure what has happened in the past, but my intention would be that if someone contacts me and are willing to get a road use agreement, I will work with any agricultural producers. We’ve got to keep business running. Our goal is to keep them off chip seals and pavements when those roads are vulnerable. Obviously, we have gravels that can be vulnerable too and we don’t want to ruin any of those roads,” continued Weber.
One question council asked was around how permits were given out.
An idea was to have a permit for each company rather than a permit for each truck being used.
“I know right now they have to phone in and get a permit for each truck. They’ve said that at times they don’t know exactly what will be happening when they are referring to something like a potato haul,” said Coun. Leavitt Howg. “Sometimes they’ll be phoned up Friday evening and say ‘we need a haul tomorrow morning’ or something like that. They’re wondering if there is a way to do more of a blanket permit in the sense of a permit from that storage facility for a timeframe of whatever it might be. They may not know it is happening but if they have the permits in place, if it does happen they can haul X amount from this place and this is the route.”
Administration agreed that way of handling road use agreements would be doable from the M.D.’s point of view.
“I think we can accommodate that. If there is going to be a certain window where this could be a potential. They can call me and we can do our best to encapsulate what they are trying to do. I agree with you Leavitt, if they have multiple trucks, they should all be covered under the same road use agreement because it is the same user. Basically what I would need to know is, how many trucks are we talking about, how many trucks a day and things like that. That being said, if it’s Friday night and they give me a call and if they have the road use agreement in place, just notify me of the things going on so I can pass that on to enforcement,” replied Weber. “If we had a discussion previously and said ‘this is the route we want you to take,’ and if it’s going to be 24 hours, we can work around that. We can keep those trucks rolling.”
While council was in favour of a more blanket type of set up with road use agreements, they also realized they would want confirmation from the companies before they used the roads.
“I don’t think we want to give everyone a blanket because that defeats the purpose. I think it is like our fire permit. If you get a fire permit, you have to call in when you are activating it,” said Coun. Tamara Miyanaga.
It was also pointed out many agricultural producers don’t always know what company may be coming or how many trucks.
“Some times for a feedlot or a seed grower, they don’t know who is coming, they really don’t. They have no idea who is coming to get their cattle, who is bringing their barley or whatever. They can show up on a Sunday afternoon and they don’t know,” added Coun. John Turcato.
“I don’t really care what the name on the door says, I’m more interested in how many trucks are they bringing,” stated Weber.
Council also wondered about enforcement, in particular with their community peace officers.
The question was around if each road use agreement contained some type of tracking number for enforcement to verify the agreement had been activated.
“If you have this road agreement in place as a seed grower, a potato grower, or a feedlot, and you have that number. Would it generate a number? So if they are giving a trucking company that calls and give them that number does that help with enforcement?” asked Turcato. “That would be a way of assisting with that.”
“They (agreements) should have one on them and if they don’t I can put one on and say ‘reference this road use agreement’ and give the truck drivers that number,” answered Weber.
One road that is used that was brought forward by council was Highway 513.
With it being one of the used roads and it being in fairly good condition, council questioned how soon road bans should be placed.
“Everyone understands the need to protect it, everybody,” said Turcato.
“I would suggest we follow the bans on secondaries around it. Whatever they are doing, that’s what we should be doing so that it’s uniform between those joiners. There isn’t a section where there is 75 per cent and the others are 90. That’s something I’ll look at,” replied Weber.
In general terms, council was also wondering how soon road bans should be placed in the M.D. and how soon they should be lifted.
With each division facing different degrees of temperatures and moisture, it was pointed out it may be best to have road bans for each division.
“Sometimes they need to come off faster too because it warms up faster in the south than in the north. Even through the flooding, that was evident,” continued Turcato.
“I’ve seen your crew start putting flags in and I really appreciate that. It definitely makes our landowners know that are people are paying attention to the roads. I just wonder how we deal with (when to place road bans),” added Miyanaga.
Administration replied they could review how they went about that practice.
“That’s something that we can look at as well. Whether we break down by division or something else. I need some more experience in this municipality,” said Weber. “I don’t like implementing road bans any earlier than we need to because it affects everybody’s ability to do work.”