Concerned with Lack of Personal Choice

Dear Editor;
Re: Meeting between Kneehill Choice ratepayer group and Kneehill County Council May 10 2011 at 10 am Kneehill County Council Chambers

Dear MLA, Mr. Richard Marz;

In an effort to keep all the parties we believe are crucial to an amicable resolution to this concerning issue of "lack of personal choice" (and which we believe is in violation of Alberta's Municipal governance act s 617) and the implementation of non-optional tax and forced purchase of Kneehill water services "riser" to the rural residents of Kneehill County and a significant increase in cost to the residence of the Hamlet of Torrington.
A meeting was arraigned between the groups Kneehill Choice" represented by me and in the presence of all the Kneehill Council members and a large number of county residents.
I have attached a copy of the document I presented at the meeting (can be viewed at www.kneehillchoice.ca on our website). Most of our presentation was focused on the concerns, questions and requests of the rural residents in the Phase four area.
Our goal is NOT to stop access to water to people that require this, WE do however strongly believe that this phase of the project has NOT been properly evaluated and will result in minimal hook up and use of water as it is explained in our presentation forcing an unnecessary and unwanted tax on the residents of this county. We desire the Choice to decide our future water supply system and have asked the county to stop the current plan to install the water system, to allow a complete review of the Need, and effectiveness of the current Phase 4 plans. One question raised is 10 year old data supporting this project even relevant today? Is there currently a need somewhere in the county where this water and money would benefit a larger per cent of the population?
On a personal note: When I became part of the executive of Kneehill Choice, many Torrington residences have expressed their questions and concerns to me. I have also taken the time to talk to some of the residence of the Hamlet of Torrington, and while they have many similar concerns in-line with the rural residence, they also have many concerns that are specific to this small community. The Business community, small as it is in Torrington, is very concerned.  Items they believe will hurt this small community are; the direct increased cost for water to the business, the loss of disposable income to most of the residence in this community, a significant increase in cost of living removing the advantage to many who reside in Torrington. A large number of the people are on fixed incomes and as a result have very tight budgets. This Increase in monthly living cost WILL result in a significant decrease in discretionary spending. The few Business that are left supporting this community may be forced to close if they lose even a small amount of their current annual income.
The local Restaurant for example is a place that supports the community and is where the visitors, local and retired people of the community can gather for social interaction and an local source of quality food.
Mr. Marz, while I was visiting with the owners of this business, there was a very demure, elderly and quite frail lady in this restaurant, enjoying her lunch, a simple meal of tea and a hot sandwich and a few minutes of conversation to add to her day, she is at a point in her life where she cannot or does not have the energy or fortitude to "complain" to this council in a letter format, even when she knows this will hurt her ability to support herself and expressed it verbally. But this story goes deeper, this was in fact her way of supplementing the intake of quality food, her way to expand social life, and a way access a 'complete" meal and allowing her to continue to enjoy many more years of independence. Something that will become difficult without this Restaurant, a place of comfort and support. Without this place she would lose a major support for her daily needs, and unfortunately she is not alone in this situation.
The owners of the Trailer court expressed to me they believe they will have to increase pad rentals between 50% and 100% to cover the significant increase in operating cost. Mr. Marz, drive by that Trailer court, these people have worked hard and turned that small part of the community into a nice clean and respectable area. Yet since the conversation of increased cost, a number of the residents have expressed they will be moving to locations like Bowden, Red Deer, Crossfield and Beiseker or other communities where they can justify the cost living vs. the expense of travel. I understand the cost of fuel will also impact this but this direct Cost of Living Increase will not help slow the migration away from this community. Once cost of living is not an advantage, there is very little to keep them here. With minimal industry very little incentive by the county to expand or sell new lots to increase population in the area, this could put the final nail in this communities proverbial coffin. With a few hundred residences in the Hamlet of Torrington and using the information we can gather from the Counties documentation this new water and the significant increase will take approximately an additional $1000.00 per household out of the economy and right out of the discretionary spending funds of many people or a potential of $200,000.00 removed from the community.
Now if it was in a similar situation to Acme's, a real need for a new water source was present, it can make a huge difference and a net positive one, BUT with a good, clean and secure water supply what advantage does it bring to these people that can OFFSET all the negatives?
I believe this is a time when the government should be focused on a much bigger picture than just forcing water to residence. IF there is a reason like the existing supply is contaminated or there is indication the aquifers water level is falling, this may change or ease these people's minds. In our meeting at the county office, Reeve Calhoun repeated many times there were two elections and said "if so many people were unhappy why were they (Council) not voted out?"... Well if we asked the former council or Mr. Murray Woods, past represented and supporter of the water project and the representative of the majority of Phase 4 project area residence, he might not agree with Mrs. Calhoun's statement the people of this area spoke loudly and clearly.
Unfortunately one vote council does not sway the past popular votes and views held by the remaining quorum of councillors.
Mr. Marz this issue is well beyond the cost concerns of a $6000.00 riser, this issue involves the council ignoring concerns of the people, the MGA s 617, the lack of respect or opportunity for residence to make an informed choice and decision, the lack of forethought, not to the big picture to the BIGGER picture and very possible wide and long term impacts to the fix income, the struggling business, the loss of a basic right to make choice for yourself and your family. This is not about taking away other people's opportunity to receive water it is about a large percentage of the populations rights have been ignored and taken away while enduring a punitive tax, to enjoy what we currently have and keep our money in our pockets to invest in items we believe maybe more important than a water source we do not need for the safety and security of our family.
Mr. Marz I respectfully request a meeting with you at your very earliest convenience. We would like the opportunity to discuss this situation and review the Alberta Government's role in this project. Hopefully clarify a number of questions we have and express our concerns and promote to you the reasonable requests and agenda we strongly believe in the end, will benefit the County residents, This County and the Province of Alberta.
Respectfully
Clint E Mason
Executive Steering Committee, Kneehill Choice and concerned property owner of Kneehill County