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Alleged bylaw breach lands Town, sign promoter in court

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    The new LED sign by the Drumheller and District Chamber of Commerce office, is landing the Town of Drumheller and the sign’s owner, DCT New Age Promotions Ltd., in court.
    Following a complaint made by local resident, Mr. John Parsons, represented by Schumacher Gough & Company, the Crown has issued summons against the Town of Drumheller and DCT New Age Promotions Ltd. for breach of a town bylaw.
    The charge states that the town, as the owner of the land, and DCT New Age Promotions Ltd., as the lessee of the land, permitted a condition that constitutes a nuisance to exist contrary to bylaw 24.98.
    Mr. Parsons, who resides near the sign, brought the complaint as he feels the board and its location has a negative effect on the neighbourhood due to its lights shining into nearby homes, as well as changing lights, constituting a nuisance.
    “It is sad that it has to come to that,” Mr. Parsons told The Mail, explaining he has tried various avenues to resolve this.
    On January 25, 2010, Mr. Parsons approached Council asking them to reconsider their decision to allow the sign to be placed at its current location, explaining the nuisance he felt the board and its location were causing.
    He also questioned the classification of the sign, explaining the product was described as a billboard by its manufacturers, rather than a third party free standing sign, terms the Town and Municipal Planning Commission used to describe it.
    As a billboard, Mr. Parsons alleged the sign was in breach of various bylaws due to its location, height and lighting.
    Mr. Parsons asked Council to rescind the motion MO2009.131 dated May 25 2009 which allowed for the sign to be put up, and to have the sign removed.
     Following the meeting, Mr. Parsons told The Mail Council advised him they felt their decision to allow the sign was not in breach of bylaws and the sign was to remain.
    “The facts are that the Town of Drumheller has approved a sign which should not have been approved….They [the Town] don’t have the right to impose something on the citizens without some moral justice in it.”
    Mayor Nimmo told The Mail the summons had been received.
    "We, at Council, have not discussed it because it just goes through the regular court situation,” he said, adding they would await the outcome of the hearing and deal with any changes the court requests if the complaint is found to be valid.
    Darcy Thompson, of  DCT New Age Promotions Ltd., was unable to comment as he had yet to see the summons when The Mail contacted him.
    The hearing will take place on Friday, September 10, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at Drumheller Provincial Court.

Resident still trying to change gas retailer after two years

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    For a local man, after two years of trying to switch his natural gas provider, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
    John Shoff has been trying to take advantage of the deregulated energy market in Alberta and switch his electricity and gas retailer, as other companies in Alberta are offering competitive contracts. He has since hit roadblocks on the gas side. He explains when he initially tried to switch in 2007, he learned that Altagas’ billing system was not compatible with other companies in Alberta. Because of this, it appears other retailers were either unable or hesitant to take on customers in areas where Altagas was the distributor.
    That has since changed as Geoff Scotton, senior communications advisor for the  Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) explains.
    “There was a technical issue around the tariff billing code. This is the set and format of information that is sent by the distributor to bill the customer,” said Scotton.
    “A couple years ago Altagas sought an exemption from having to adhere to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) rule on how the tariff code would be delivered. They were turned down, and subsequently had to adhere to those requirements, but in order to do so they had to re-jig its IT systems. They were able to do that about a month ago.”
    Shoff noticed the change when he surveyed his monthly bill, it now contained a Site Identification Number, a signal to him that the billing systems were compatible.
    Earl Tuele, president of Altagas, said there are no roadblocks on the Altagas end.
    “I’m surprised he has had trouble in the last couple weeks,” said Tuele. “Since then we have modified and upgraded our billing system to accommodate the electronic transfers of all information related to retail supply of gas to our customers if they choose to register with a retailer.”
    Shoff promptly called ENMAX to make the switch, however he was once again unsuccessful. He was told there was no agreement in place between Altagas and ENMAX.
    Scotton explains a number of steps need to be taken before a new retailer can break in to a new territory.
    “When the legislation was changed and opened the market to retail competition in natural gas, it provided the possibility of competition, but didn’t mandate that competition occur. In other words, it didn’t order retailers to provide retail access to their services everywhere in Alberta," said Scotton. “What is required is a retailer must reach an agreement with a supplier.”
    He explains the two parties must reach an agreement to bring terms and conditions into concert.
    “For that to happen, a retailer must pursue that agreement with the distributor,” said Scotton, adding this could already be in the process of being completed, and it would have to be approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission.
    Tuele says there is no reason another retailer cannot pursue an agreement with Altagas.
    “I made some enquiries in the last while to see if, for a retailer, there were any impediments of registering with us, and I am assured there are not. I also enquired if there are any impediments in our billing system to customers enrolling to be supplied by a retailer and I am assured there are not,” said Tuele.
    He also says he understands they are in the process of having these conditions approved.
    “Right now we are working with the AUC for final approval of our terms and conditions. We have them in place and we have an agreement that we can use them to sign up retailers and enrol customers, but if there are any changes that come out of this as a result of our discussions with the regulators, then we’ll make those changes. There is nothing in that process that I am aware of that stops retailers from signing up customers in our area, registering with us to be a retailer in our area.
    “We’re ready as we can be right now.”
    For Shoff, the bottom line is he is still not able to choose a retailer.
    “The way I see it, it kind of seems like we are in a monopoly,” said Shoff. “That is my frustration, it has taken so long. Now that we have Site I.D. how long is it going to take to get this retailers agreement in place?”
    “Maybe Altagas has the best price, but I want to be able to go to Direct Energy, or ENMAX, any of the ones that I am supposedly allowed to and see which has the best rate.”
    For his next step, Shoff is planning to make an appeal to the Alberta Utilities Commission.   

Rockyford Rodeo gets buckin’ this weekend

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    With the Calgary Stampede coming to a close this past weekend, rodeo enthusiasts can look forward to the 53rd annual Rockyford Rodeo this coming weekend.
    The three day FCA (Foothills Cowboy Association) action kicks off Friday, July 23 in the small town an hour’s drive south west of Drumheller.
    Probably the most exciting event this year is the professional gunfighters that will turn the Rockyford Main Street into the scene of an old West shootout, without the fatalities and whiskey.
    “We are as excitied as any year, the gunfighters should be a great addition,” says Rockyford Lions Club President Darcy Koester, who adds they have heard great things about the shootist troupe.
    Rodeo action kicks of at 1 p.m. on Friday, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday.
    The chuckwagon chariot races make their start Friday and Saturday at 6:30, and at noon Sunday.
    With a family dance Friday evening, the poker bull fight on all three days, and a catch and keep, the event has options for all members of the family.

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