August '10 Newsletter

Town Council News

August 2010                                                                                                                          Volume 5, Issue 4


ARWMCS manager Rob Smith (red cap), ARW lead operator Craig Duperron (dark hair), ARW lead driver Rob Nelson (light hair), and Martin Banish (green cap), IT manager with Toter Incorporated, deliver the new Toter roll-out waste collection carts to residences in the Cornwall subdivision, July 29.

Rob Nelson, operating the cart pickup arm, and Travis Wozniak, driving the truck, during the first waste pickup run in Cornwall using the new automated system, August 5.

Athabasca rolls out new waste collection program


Residents of the Cornwall subdivision who were watching out their windows the morning of July 29 were witness to the dawning of a new era of trash collection in Athabasca. The first of the new Toter roll-out trash carts were being delivered by a crew from the Athabasca Regional Waste Management Services Commission (ARWMSC). The Toter carts are part of an automated waste collection system that is now active in the Town of Athabasca and the Village of Boyle.


Leading the July 29 crew was ARWMSC manager Rob Smith who enlisted the aid of Craig Duperron, lead operator of the Athabasca Recycle facility, and Rob Nelson, lead driver for ARWMSC. Joining the team for the initial deliveries of the waste collection carts was Martin Banish, IT Manager with Toter Inc., a division of Wastequip, Inc.


The crew delivered more than 300 carts to Cornwall residences. More than 940 Athabasca homes will be on the automated waste collection program. Each cart is equipped with a radio frequency identification chip (RFID) to assist with inventory control and waste pick-up scheduling. Martin came from North Carolina to provide training with the RFID software.


On trash pickup day, an automated arm attached to the front of the garbage truck picks up the Toter cart and dumps its contents into a collection bin. As the pickup crews become more familiar with the process, pickup efficiencies will improve and the physical demands on the staff will be significantly reduced.


Residents do not have to pay for the carts, but they are responsible for the cart assigned to their home and they may be required to cover the cost of replacement for lost or damaged carts. However, under normal conditions, the carts have been designed to last a long time.


“Toter Incorporated has been producing the carts for almost 30 years,” noted Martin. “Many communities have had them for years – they are durable.”


Each resident on the program receives a 64-gallon cart. ARWMSC manager Rob Smith notes that the carts have met with mixed responses.


“The carts will look small to some residents and look too big to others,” he says. “Residents who are recycling will find the cart adequate for their weekly waste.”


Local recycling guidelines were updated in April, making the recycling process easier since more materials are now included with less sorting required by residents. Recycling information was included with each of the Toter carts.


“Each cart was delivered with how-to-use instructions as well as recycling and household waste transfer site guidelines,” says Rob. “It provides accurate information for all of our programs.”


Residents can help reduce waste management costs by improving their own household waste handling and recycling practices. Some communities are able to cut back on the number of garbage pickups they have each month.


“St. Albert is looking at going to bi-weekly household waste pickups,” notes Rob. “We should watch that community for future reference.”


There are a few key points to remember with the new automated waste collection system: Toter carts are to be parked on the street with the wheels in line with the curb or road edge by 8:00 a.m. on the scheduled collection day; arrows on the carts are to be pointed towards the centre of the road; and carts are to be spaced with 1.2 metres of clearance (a full arm’s length) on all sides.


Residents who have questions regarding the roll-out carts or the new automated waste collection program are welcome to contact the ARWMSC by telephone at 780-675-1117, or by email at

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Water now a precious resource to be managed responsibly


Communities across the province are seeing an increase in their water rates and Athabasca is no exception. Even though a river runs through Athabasca and the town is located in a region of the province appreciated for its many lakes, there is still a need for responsible water resource management.


A few years ago, looking to the future and recognizing their role of leadership in the growing water issue, Athabasca Town Council began developing a water use strategy to help promote awareness of the need for increased water conservation. The Aspen Regional Water Treatment Plant on Wood Heights Road in Athabasca is one result of Council’s efforts. The facility is scheduled to open this fall and will serve both the town and communities throughout Athabasca County.


The new water plant is a joint project of the Town of Athabasca, the Village of Boyle and Athabasca County and is in response to recommendations from the Province of Alberta to develop a regional water system. The project is in line with the provincial Water for Life sustainability strategy.


“The purpose of the Water for Life strategy is to ensure that everyone has access to good, clean water, but that the water supply remains there forever,” says Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell, “that we are all aware of how important that resource is, even though we are at the wet end of the province.”


Colleen and fellow Council members have been advising town residents of impending and continuing increases in water rates as the resource becomes more precious, and have been advocating better conservation practices in all areas of water usage.


“We are encouraging people to conserve water,” says the mayor. “Soon, we will all be paying higher water rates; we are no different than any other community. The days of the teenager spending an hour in the shower are gone. Luscious green lawns? We don’t live in that world anymore.”


New environmental regulations contribute to the rise in water rates as communities across the province upgrade their water treatment facilities or build new ones, as the Athabasca region is doing. When the Town first considered entering into a regional partnership with Boyle and the County, the cost to upgrade the old water treatment facility in Athabasca was greater than building new. Now, as the project nears completion, the cost has turned out to be more, but not significantly more, says Colleen. And in the long run, it will prove to be the better alternative.


“The result is, we have a new state of the art plant and we can guarantee a level of water quality higher than previous.”


While the cost to each partner for their share of the project is based on their municipality’s percentage of water use, Town of Athabasca residents pay only for the operation of the plant and for the water they use. Town residents do not pay for pipelines going out into the county.


“We are purchasing water from the water treatment plant. We pay nothing in capital for the pipelines throughout the county,” advises Colleen. “If you don’t use the pipelines, you don’t pay for them. We don’t. We pay the cost of the water plus distribution within the town.”


When reviewing their water bills, residents should realize that the cost is not as high as a first glance might suggest: each billing covers two months. “Remember, you are paying every other month,” says Colleen.


Since water is no longer a cheap resource and residents are being encouraged to conserve wherever they can, Council is considering ways to reward those who effectively reduce their use. One option is the possibility of setting the current flat rate to a lower amount.


“We’re looking at reducing the flat rate of 18 cubic meters down so that the less you use, the less you pay,” says Colleen. “It’s still to be discussed and debated.”


Responsible water resource management falls upon everyone’s shoulders and Council is counting on all residents to be aware of the issue and to do what they can to support and promote effective water conservation practices.

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Land Use Bylaw review to be finalized by October election


If all goes as planned, Town Council will have a substantially revised Land Use Bylaw in place prior to the municipal election scheduled for mid-October.


The Land Use Bylaw is a comprehensive document that provides both the Town and developers with definitions, regulations and guidelines governing all forms of development and construction within the Town of Athabasca. The document is reviewed and updated every few years and takes its direction from the Town’s Municipal Development Plan, which is in turn informed by the Town of Athabasca Sustainability Plan.


Anticipating the possibility of some changes on Council after the election, present Council members would like to see the revised Land Use Bylaw finalized and confirmed by that time for the benefit of the incoming Council.


“We want to see this through Council before the election,” confirms Mayor Colleen Powell. “We’re hoping for a first reading as soon as possible so we can have a public hearing. It’s quite a different document than it was previously. The way it is laid out is fundamentally different and much more detailed.”


The document begins with an extensive set of definitions from which all of the regulations and guidelines roll out. In addition to standard regulations in each section, the new document also includes a series of additional regulations to help create greater clarity. Some sections now include supporting diagrams.


Colleen admits that at first, the new Land Use Bylaw may be a bit confusing and may appear to be more restrictive, but she is confident that as people become familiar with it, they will appreciate the clarity.


“It is not more restrictive than the previous one,” she assures. “It is now just clearer. It’s nice to have that clarity. It will be beneficial.”


Although the lines on the zoning map will not change significantly, there are some slight changes. Additional residential zones are being added to help create a greater sense of community and the zones will be more individually distinct and more descriptive. They will now include names, such as Residential R4, and Highway Commercial instead of just C3.


Where applicable, references to Town bylaws will be included, such as the noise bylaw and the nuisance bylaw, and references to permitted uses and discretionary uses will be more clearly defined.


“The permitted uses are basically the same,” notes Colleen, “but many more discretionary uses are listed.”


Outdoor storage is now more clearly defined. Front yard clearance has been reduced.


“We’ve changed the minimum on front yard clearance,” Colleen explains. “The clearance was 7.5 metres. It is now down to five metres.”


Once approved, the new document will address the different categories of manufactured homes, and will also expand the possibilities for secondary suites to help fill the need for additional housing in Athabasca.


“There are three different manufactured homes categories,” says Colleen. “Residential, manufactured home park, and condominium.”


Secondary suites, such as in-law suites and self-contained suites above garages, will have clear definitions and guidelines and a broader range of options.


“There are different levels of these types of suites,” advises Colleen. “The revised Land Use Bylaw allows more flexibility in size, development and other factors.”


Beyond housing in traditional neighbourhoods, some Athabasca businesses may also have the potential to provide residential suites.


“In urban development, there is always talk about building density to stop sprawl,” Colleen explains. “If you want your town to be vibrant, you need people living there.”


She sees more possibility for residential suites above business and commercial spaces.


“As we grow, we want to maintain commercial viability. That means bringing people in to live.”


The aim of Council in this round of revisions to the Town of Athabasca Land Use Bylaw has been to produce a clearly written document that best serves the interests of the community and provides a strong foundation for community growth and development based on principals of sustainability.


“We’ve brought some better planning into the process,” says Colleen. “We’ll have a public hearing and will invite comments from the community.”


The date, time and place of the public hearing will be announced.




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