Old Smith Highway, Smith pad highlight M.D. capital budget discussion

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

M.D. council discussed a range of capital expenditure items on May 3. Taking up a good deal of the time was the ticklish issue of relocating a slumping section of the Old Smith Highway. Another item of considerable discussion and debate was the Smith outdoor skating rink project.

“Long story short,” said director of field services Ryan Tufts, starting things off. “The road is sliding into the river.”

This has been known for many years. Various angles of attack have been proposed, and initial efforts made – including the purchase of some land.

The latest idea, as presented by Tufts, was to shift the road just a bit – as opposed to the earlier idea of a total re-route to safer ground. It would be easier to do. The main drawback appears to be that it would not be a long-term solution. But “it will buy us time,” he said.

The M.D. has $1.3 million in reserve for the project. It won’t be enough, but how much more it will cost “remains to be seen,” Tufts said.

Councillors seemed agreeable to the new proposal.

“We’ve got to do it,” said reeve Murray Kerik.

The final decision on it (and all other budget items) however, remains to be made. Council was merely providing direction at the May 2 and 3 meetings.

Smith skating rink
After hearing that asphalt around the existing concrete pad would cost about $200,000 less than a total concrete solution, council indicated favour with that option. But all that was proposed for the 2022 budget was $40,000, for a total of $80,000 (half of it carried over from 2021). The rest of the cost for the M.D.’s part of the skating rink project for Smith could come from a grant that it has applied for.

“So we proceed,” said Kerik. “Spend 80 grand if we have to and if the grant doesn’t come through, we re-group.”

Councillor Darren Fulmore asked what that would mean. He’s a strong advocate for the M.D.’s role in making the rink happen, and has made the point (more than once) that the M.D. spent a lot on the Canyon Creek arena a few years ago, and continues to contribute a lot, every year, to the cost of the rinks in Slave Lake. So, he said, what happens if the grant doesn’t come through. Can we commit to getting the pad built and the boards up?

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Kerik.

(Again, this discussion did not amount to a final decision on spending in 2022).

Ranch Road
A section of Ranch Road (near Smith) is falling apart, council heard. The proposal is to re-do it using ‘hot oil.’ It would cost an estimated $137,000, for 1.2 kilometres. Nobody spoke against it, so it will likely happen.

Smith pavement?
It’s time to start thinking about resurfacing the paved streets in Smith, Tufts told council. He said he didn’t even know how long ago the M.D. had done the paving, but assumed it was early 1990s. The M.D. has been maintaining it since then.

Longer than that, said councillor Nancy Sand. She’d moved to the area in 1987 and it was paved then, she said.

Proposed for the 2022 budget is an amount for engineering, part of which would be to come up with a cost estimate, for 2023 and probably beyond.

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” said councillor Norm Seatter, giving the thumbs’ up to the proposed $30,000.

“Stage it appropriately,” suggested councillor Pearson.

Canyon Creek water intake
The single water intake line for the water plant at Canyon Creek is a source of concern for the M.D.’s utilities department. The proposal is to add a back-up intake line. This is standard practice, council heard, and having a single intake is “just bad practice.”

The last time there was a problem with the intake, it ended up costing the M.D. $200,000.

“It needs to be done,” said reeve Kerik.

The areas of the Old Smith Highway threatened by slumping. Image courtesy M.D. of Lesser Slave River.

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