City proposes $140k BLESS solution


On the agenda:

Tax sale

BLESS platform

Servus Place student rate

Staff and council remuneration

St. Albert city council will decide Monday whether they want to spend $140,000 to repair a bird-watching platform on the shores of Big Lake.

The platform, built around 1996 by the Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) for $12,500, closed last June because of structural issues. In December, city staff told council members completely replacing the platform would cost an estimated $600,000.

At the time, city staff recommended spending $200,000 to repair the platform, giving it around five more years of life. However, council members decided to postpone their decision so the city could look at cheaper options to fix it.

Councillors will take a look at revised options on Monday, with the cheapest being complete removal of the structure for an estimated cost of $110,000. The option city staff are recommending is to shorten the structure so it doesn’t hang over into Big Lake, repair the platform and add a railing to the end. The cost for that is estimated at $140,000 and would add five years of life to the platform.

Other options include spending $180,000 to repair the whole structure and add five years of life; spending $341,000 to install helical piles and repair the structure for an added 10 years of life; or replacing the structure.

In December, council members balked at the price tags attached to the various options. Monday’s prices are lower, although the agenda report for the motion does not include an updated cost for replacement of the platform.

Bird-watchers Dan Stoker and Percy Zalasky both have spent countless mornings watching migratory birds from the BLESS platform. They attended an information session the city held Tuesday evening regarding the options for the platform’s repair and replacement.

Stoker said he believes the solution – both from a cost perspective and a bird-watching perspective – is to shorten the platform until it is no longer in the water.

“If we had the platform built 50 feet back, and set up our tripods, we’d see the same birds, accomplish exactly the same thing and have just as good a view,” Stoker said.

“To repeat what I say is a mistake – it didn’t have to be that long, it was a mistake to try to go so aggressively into the river with that platform – let’s not do it again. And if we don’t do that again, we could save 90 per cent of the costs.”

Coun. Ken MacKay, who attended the information session, told the Gazette the big issue for him is still the price tag.

He said he also recognizes there are hurdles the city would have to overcome to repair or replace the platform, including environmental impact studies and acquiring permits.

Ideally, he would like to see the province come in with funds to replace the platform; however, a legal land survey done in January showed the platform is within Big Lake and on city property but does not fall within Lois Hole Provincial Park.

“I can’t possibly justify spending $600,000 to replace it – I just can’t,” MacKay said.


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