The 2013 flood that hit southern Alberta more than a year ago continues to put strain on a foothills community as its council and staff struggle to keep their heads above water.
Turner Valley Town council and management staff are putting their heads together at a three-day retreat this week to determine how to get back on track with town projects put on hold since 2013. The Town is faced with a $37-million budget this year, compared to its regular budget of $3-4 million, due to millions of dollars worth of flood mitigation work, yet projects like the downtown revitalization plan and relocating the ball diamonds and campground budgeted to begin in 2013 remain untouched.
“We allocate currently about 60 per cent of our administration staff (time) to dealing with flood mitigation, so that leaves 40 per cent to our day-to-day operations,” said Turner Valley Mayor Kelly Tuck. “You are still getting your garbage pick-up and your essential services are still happening, but capital purchases council approved last year haven’t been completed yet for this year because of the time that is being spent on flood mitigation. We don’t have the people to allocate to the day-to-day stuff or the projects that council wants to get moving on. It’s important that we have a really good conversation about moving forward and what that’s going to look like for the town.”
After the flood hit southern Alberta in the spring of 2013, the Town was immediately tasked to supplying water to Black Diamond after the neighbouring community lost its water treatment plant and almost all water wells in both towns were damaged. It wasn’t until this past summer that residents were finally taken off strict water restrictions.
Although adequate water sources are now in place, other projects became a priority including expanding the water treatment plant to permanently supply both communities with drinking water and responding to an appeal by a Turner Valley resident concerned about the quality of the Town’s new water infiltration gallery located close to a former landfill.
Tuck expects flood mitigation work won’t be complete until 2016.
“We have all our wells up and running and infiltration in place, but we need to work on vegetation in those areas,” she said. “And we are still building an addition to the water treatment plant. There is a lot of work to be done.”
While the flood-ravaged Decalta Bridge is now repaired, Tuck said damage to Decalta Drive and Imperial Drive won’t be fixed until heavy equipment is no longer needed for repair work along the Sheep River.
“None of our roads have been repaired because we still have so much equipment (on them),” she said. “We are picking away at it as fast as we can and identifying what needs to be done first.”
Tuck said the Town will ask the Province for funding to hire additional staff to work on flood mitigation projects to take the load off of town employees.
Barry Williamson, the Town’s chief administrative officer, said while the Town hired contractors for a lot of the flood mitigation work, it still demands a lot of the Town’s resources and is taking away from other projects like the downtown development plan, ball diamonds and campground.
“Those are the things we should have been throwing a lot of resources at,” he said. “Nothing has been done with them. There is a lot of things going on that are taking up our resources.”
Even without these projects being addressed, the staff has a lot on its plate, said Williamson.
“In 2013 we had a ton of over time,” he said. “What we are trying to do now is manage our resources so we aren’t wearing them out. I’m looking at the vacation people are not taking and should be taking. They’ve got to take the time off.”
Williamson said council and staff will look at the Town’s current capacity, the need for additional staff and additional needs regarding flood recovery projects during this week’s retreat.
“What we’re doing is looking at where people are spending their time and efforts to get the normal business done as well as extra requirements,” he said. “The retreat will be part of how we show the progress on what we’re doing and looking at the various projects and how do we best manage them on a priority point of view.”