At County Council: drug houses, libraries and chickens

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County wants drug-house rules

Sturgeon County council wants the province to set rules for when it’s safe to send people into suspected fentanyl labs.

Council voted in favour of a motion last Dec. 12 to have Coun. Susan Evans present a resolution on buildings contaminated with fentanyl and carfentanil to the Jan. 15 Pembina River zone meeting of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC).

Edmonton Police shut down a fentanyl trafficking ring earlier this year that included a suspected drug lab at a house in Sturgeon County. Alberta Health Services ordered the home sealed until it could be cleansed of fentanyl and carfentanil, both of which can be fatal in small amounts.

The home has since been cleaned by a contractor and inspected to see if it met plumbing, electrical and building codes, county acting general manager of integrated growth Collin Steffes said in an email. Alberta Health has yet to reopen the house to the public.

The province wants municipalities to inspect homes that contain fentanyl labs to certify them as safe for habitation, but doesn’t have any guidelines inspectors can use to know when it’s safe for them to go into those homes, Evans said in an interview.

“We need to get this stuff in place so we don’t jeopardize the people that are going into these homes to do their jobs,” she said.

The resolution calls on the AAMDC to ask the province to create defined standards for inspecting buildings contaminated by fentanyl or carfentanil to ensure those properties are remediated and meet requirements for safe entry and habitation.

The AAMDC will lobby the province on this matter should its members adopt this resolution in 2018.

Library wants cash

Redwater’s library needs more support from the county if it is to hold on to good librarians, said its board chair.

Redwater Public Library board chair Janice Goeckel called on county council to chip in more cash for libraries this budget at last week’s county council meeting.

Goeckel said that the library saw high use from non-resident workers and people seeking jobs or information. But it was also struggling with operating costs that were now about 180 per cent higher than they were in 1999, her written report to council showed.

“These increases are not reflected in the contributions made by the county,” she said.

Goeckel presented a chart that showed how the county had given the library roughly $21,000 this year – about $2,000 less than it did in 1999. In contrast, the province and the Town of Redwater contributed about $17,000 and $56,000, respectively, to the library this year – roughly twice and three times what they gave in 1999.

Library staff already work less than 40 a week and earn wages 30 per cent below the industry average, Goeckel said.

“We can’t attract qualified staff for the wages we offer,” she said, and staffers can’t afford the rents in or the commute to Redwater.

The board was already charging for library cards and holding fundraisers, Goeckel said. She called on council to provide sustainable funding, warning that the board would have to make further service cuts otherwise.

Coun. Patrick Tighe said the county should definitely address this funding issue, and noted that Morinville and other area libraries had raised similar concerns.

“There’s definitely a really wide gap here,” he said, and Redwater seems to have kept up its funding.

Backyard chickens

A county resident wants county council to let her keep chickens in her backyard.

Tuscany Hills resident Alicja Platek asked council last week to start a backyard chicken pilot for acreage properties that were smaller than a hectare and zoned Country Estate Residential.

Backyard chickens encourage sustainable living by allowing residents to grow their own food and reduce waste, Platek said. She called on council to run a pilot urban chicken program similar to Edmonton’s with seven to 13 birds permitted per property.

Steffes said this issue would likely be discussed as part of the county’s agricultural master plan next year.

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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.