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County council approved an annexation deal last week that will let Gibbons create a huge new business industrial park.

Sturgeon County council signed off on the Town of Gibbons’ annexation application last July 11.

Gibbons has asked to annex three quarter-sections of land southeast of its current boundary from Sturgeon County. If approved, the town’s area will grow by about 26 per cent from this annexation.

Gibbons is set to lose most of its industrial land to the province’s plan to eventually realign Hwy. 28A and wants these lands as a replacement, county intergovernmental affairs advisor Trevor Duley told council. The Capital Region Board predicts that the number of jobs in Gibbons will roughly double by 2024, and this industrial park will accommodate that new employment.

The county will not receive any compensation for this land, which was worth about $6,000 in taxes, council learned. Gibbons will, however, upgrade the region’s sewers so that they can service the Casa Vista, Riverside Park and Sierra Ridge subdivisions, and pay to upgrade Range Road 231 in the county to industrial standards once these lands develop. Gibbons will also tax residents in this area at county rates (or town rates if those are lower) for 25 years or until they subdivide, and will not annex any more land from the county for 30 years.

Council’s stamp of approval means the annexation now goes before the Municipal Government Board, which may call a public hearing on it. If approved, the annexation is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Mayor Tom Flynn said that the county had to be partners in making sure rural communities stayed sustainable.

“This is exciting as far as I’m concerned,” he said of the annexation.

Construction delays mean that the flood of tax money the county had expected from the Sturgeon Refinery next year will be more like a trickle.

Council got an update on how delays at the Sturgeon Refinery would affect the millions Sturgeon County expected to reap in tax revenue from it next year. Councillors allocated that cash to specific purposes when it passed its Significant Tax Revenue Growth Policy last March.

The county had originally expected the refinery to start operations this fall, resulting in $29 million in tax revenue next year, a report to council found.

Now that the refinery has been delayed to mid-2018, the county would get just $15 million from it next year. About $5.7 million of that will go to reserves and debt (down from the $10 million originally planned), $5.2 million to infrastructure repair (down from $7 million), and $2.5 million to community building (down from $4.6 million). Plans to fast-track about $4.4 million in engineering have been put on ice entirely. Proposals to improve service levels, lower taxes and improve living conditions in the Industrial Heartland would get $0.5 to $0.6 million each, or about half as much as planned.

Flynn said this change was unlikely to affect next year’s budget much as most of this tax money was allocated towards reserves and not operational projects.

The county expected to get full revenues from the refinery by 2019.

Sturgeon Valley homeowners might get a break on their insurance now that firefighters have finally broken the curse of the wimpy hydrants.

County council learned last week that its fire department had officially received Superior Tanker Shuttle Service accreditation for the Sturgeon Valley region.

Sturgeon Valley residents have for years complained that they did not have enough water flow available to make their hydrants work for firefighting, resulting in higher insurance premiums.

Those complaints plus other factors prompted a slew of upgrades to the county’s fire department in recent years, including an expansion to the Allin Ridge reservoir, a new fire hall in the valley region, and the hiring of full-time fire-fighters.

This year, the department moved to get superior tanker shuttle service accreditation, which required them to show that they could crank out at least 950 litres of water a minute for two hours, said deputy fire chief Steve Douglas. Crews blew past this target in tests on May 16, cranking out 1,440 L/min – enough to fill about nine bathtubs in 60 seconds, the Gazette estimates – and winning them accreditation.

The county is only the second municipality in Alberta to receive this certification from the Fire Underwriters Survey, Douglas said. Having it shows that the valley region has the equivalent of working hydrants for firefighting, which should lower insurance premiums. One insurance agency he had reached suggested it could drop premiums by 33 per cent.

The certification applies to any home within eight kilometres by road from the Namao fire hall and five kilometres from a water supply point, Douglas said.

Flynn said that this problem had been going on for about 10 years, and it was exciting to see it be resolved.

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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.