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Last updateTue, 18 Jun 2024 12pm

Feasibility study depicts short line railway potential

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  The rail continuance recovery plan has taken a big step forward with the recent completion of a feasibility study that depicts potential to develop a short line railway for grain hauling and industry.
    Palliser Regional Municipal Services, on behalf of its shareholders, has  undertaken to study the feasibility of purchasing the rail line from Lyalta to Oyen which was placed on the CN Rail discontinuance list.
    “Based on what these consultants have worked on in the past, it is definitely feasible,” said Brad Wiebe, interim CEO of Palliser Regional Municipal Services.
    Wiebe said the feasibility study focuses on grain handling as the primary use for a short line rail.
    “Additional things such as tourism or industry are great to have, but  are not to be gambled on to be a consistent revenue generator,” said Wiebe.
     The primary rationale for acquiring the line and operating a short line railway is to enable producers of agricultural commodities, particularly those which would otherwise be subject to long - term storage and elevation, to avoid those charges by loading railcars directly, which the short line has received from the Canadian Grain Commission.
    Such producer loading operations result in significant savings for producers in their farming operations, savings which are directly attributable to the ability of producers to load their own railcars and avoid the storage and elevation charges.
    Accordingly, for a standard loaded railcar of 94 tons, each producer car loaded can save each individual operator, an amount of up to $1,541.
    The feasibility study has determined the following benefits of a short line operation:
• Continuation of the payment of property taxes to each town, village or RM through which the rail line operates; 
• The attraction of new business and the rejuvenation of old business facilities to offset the negative effects of prairie grain elevator rationalization programs, in particular the development of producer car loading facilities, as fuel prices and costs related to provincial and municipal infrastructure maintenance and construction continue to rise; 
• Assurance that economic development opportunities for communities located on the line will continue to exist, which opportunities would disappear if the railway were to be abandoned; 
• Avoidance of increasing maintenance and upgrade costs of the grid road system caused by the incidence of increased truck traffic, if the line were to be abandoned; 
• Purchases of fuel, hardware, and other goods and services which engenders the creation and continued operation of local businesses along the line (grain handling, Co-ops, banks, restaurants, insurance brokers, equipment and automobile dealerships as examples); 
• Savings to grain producers of up to $1,350 in elevation charges and other grain company charges per producer car or $3.375 million at 2,500 cars; 
• Avoidance of fuel surcharges passed on by commercial truckers or future highway / grid road user fees. 
• Stabilization of the local economic units adjacent to the Line; 
• Retention of current revenues and increased future revenues (from income tax, shared portion of GST, negative population fluctuations slowed). 
     In consideration of the overall positive results of the feasibility study, the steering committee moved to proceed with a business plan followed by further public meetings. The public meetings are to be facilitated by Rail West Management, the consultant that was contracted to provide the study.
    The consultant will provide an explanation of the business case, financing options and potentials. 
    Public meetings are tentatively scheduled for late October and will include stops at multiple communities along the rail line. 
    At this stage Wiebe says it is especially important that local grain producers that would have an interest in utilizing a short line railway for grain hauling attend to gauge the level of support for the potential of a short line rail operation.


Town takes step towards Main Street Program

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    Drumheller Town Council took the first step in Drumheller applying to become an Alberta Main Street Community.
    At a Committee of the Whole Meeting on September 21, council heard a presentation on the Alberta Main Street Program. This program provides a membership network, funding and expertise to municipalities to help restore historic integrity and architectural character to traditional main streets across Alberta. It serves to revitalize Alberta downtown areas.
    This week at council, director of Community Services, Paul Salvatore, asked council for direction on the possibility of bringing the Main Street Program to Drumheller. Council approved to apply for a basic membership in the Alberta Main Street Program.
    “This is progress in a positive direction,” said Michael Todor, member of Downtown Drumheller Merchants Association.
    Basic memberships are offered to communities that are actively working towards designation to be an accredited Alberta Main Street Community.
    According to the Alberta Main Street website, it comes with many benefits including an on-site visit, recommendations for implementation and advancement to accreditation.
    Additional basic membership services such as peer support, ongoing comprehensive training for Main Street coordinators and board members, subsidies for registration cost to attend the annual National Main Street Conference, technical assistance relating to the standards and guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada and advice on heritage tourism programs and marketing and priority access to cost-sharing from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP).
    Salvatore outlined the next steps in working towards becoming an enhanced member and being an accredited Alberta Main Street Community. These include completing an inventory of the historical resources in the district selected to be part of the Main Street Program. Salvatore said this would run in the area of about $1,000 per property. Another step would be to confirm the historical significance and integrity of the buildings in the footprint. The other step would be to employ a Main Street coordinator, approved by the program. The program would also need approval from a municipal government body. 
    “The benefit of the program is that the town would be able to identify the historic resources in more detail land identify the preservation strategies to support long-term viability for the Town of Drumheller,” said Salvatore.
    Councillor Terry Yemen proposed a motion to apply for membership in the Alberta Main Street program working towards becoming an accredited Main Street Community.
    After discussion, council set the parameter that there would be no monetary commitment at this point in time.

World’s Largest Dinosaur warms up his claws

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    The gloves fit, as the World’s Largest Dinosaur took the national stage to kick off the Red Mitten Campaign.
    The Drumheller Olympic Torch Committee, dignitaries and the curious were out on a brisk Wednesday morning to witness the World’s Largest Dinosaur being fitted with a red pair of mittens. This was the national kick off to the Red Mitten Campaign. Mayor Bryce Nimmo and Tara Semchuk, who stitched together the mittens, were raised up using the Drumheller Fire Department’s aerial truck and slid the mitts into place.
    “It was amazing to be up so high and see everyone down below cheering as I helped our T. Rex get her giant mittens on,” said Semchuk, owner of Bits and Pieces, who came up with the idea to create the mitts. “This is Drumheller’s way of showing our excitement about Canada’s Games. Today, we’re issuing a challenge to other communities across the country to find unique ways to use these Red Mittens to welcome the Olympic Flame and support our athletes as they go for gold!”
    Each mitten is three metres long and 1.8 metres wide, and covered the World’s Largest Dinosaur's claws.  While their initial appearance will be short lived, they will be put back in place shortly.
    The red mittens are part of the uniform that 12,000 torchbearers will wear during the torch marathon.  The palm has a maple leaf while the observe has the Olympic rings. They already are expected to be a popular souvenir of the games. 
    According to a release, the net proceeds from every pair sold will help complete the funding of the five-year Own the Podium 2010 initiative, which provides Canadian athletes with top equipment and training for the 2010 Games. Any additional funds raised through the Red Mittens Campaign will support a variety of athlete- and sport-based initiatives.
    At the same time the World’s Largest Dinosaur was being fitted with the new gloves, across the county in Windsor, Nova Scotia, the Mayor dropped the puck at a street hockey game wearing the new mittens.  At Tomken Road Middle School in Mississauga, Ontario, the 18 student torchbearers selected were presented with their mittens.

The mittens retail for $10, and are available at Hudson Bay Company retailers, as well as www.vancouver2010.com/redmittens. In Drumheller, they will be available at the World’s Largest Dinosaur.


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