Council discussed the issue during its regular meeting on Sept. 24. It was agreed it will be brought to residents to decide if they would like silencing of the whistle pursued or not. Forms will possibly be sent out with water bills later this year where residents will be asked to state whether they would like to have the train whistle continue to blow or be stopped. The same method was used to gather the public’s opinion two years ago, when 273 people were in favour of keeping the whistle and 114 were in favour of silencing it.
Council noted many residents have no opinion either way, but those who are irritated most by the whistle are business owners and residents who are close to the tracks, as well as tourists staying at accommodations close to the tracks.
Councillor Tina Cresswell added many of the people who are affected most by the noise wouldn’t be able to vote as they are visitors.
“We have a new hotel, we have the rehabilitated Commercial Hotel, we have Willowbend Campground, and then the two existing motels. We have a lot of people who come to town who sleep – or try to sleep – alongside the railway,” she pointed out.
Councillor Barry Elderkin agreed there have been more comments about the loud whistles since the Commercial Hotel re-opened and guests began staying there.
Public safety was the biggest concern, but the whistle would be blown if there was a chance of a collision occurring.
“You have to remember if there’s something on the track, they will blow the whistle,” stated Councillor Kevin Harrigan.
Mayor Barry Rudd noted Gull Lake has about three times the amount of traffic Maple Creek has every day and has not had any issues since train whistles were silenced there.
If the majority of people vote to have the whistle silenced, the process could still be a lengthy one. Council reported it took two years for Gull Lake to have its train whistles stopped. If silenced, no fencing would be required along the railway tracks.
Voting forms will not be ready to be sent out with the 1,100 water bills issued this month, however the town is looking at the possibility of including them in the December water bills. Council will also be discussing finding another method of voting as December is a busy time and the town would like to gauge the public’s opinion sooner.
In other business, council agreed to have decommissioning work completed at the site of the old town compound on Fifth Avenue.
AMEC of Saskatoon will be contracted to complete the work at a cost of $25,000 plus GST. There are two areas on the property that will be inspected to determine the level of contamination that needs to be eliminated. Samples will be taken and a final report sent to Saskatchewan Environment.
Once approval is received from Sask Environment, the property will be able to be zoned residential. When the old town compound was shut down and the building removed in 2012, the town originally intended to have it zoned as commercial. Town administrator Michele Schmidt said it would make a very nice location for residential development.
Council hopes to have the work complete in October.
The town began delivering new garbage carts to residences and businesses yesterday. A public meeting is being held at the Armoury tonight at 7 p.m. to provide information on the new garbage truck and carts, conversion to semi-automated garbage pickup and guidelines for cart usage and cart placement in back alleys.
Garbage stands will be removed from properties by the town by Oct. 13 at no charge if they are still located in back alleys.
Councillor Ellaine Hawrylak reported a local group was successful in obtaining Tom Callaghan’s Boer War Distinguished Conduct Medal to bring it home to Maple Creek.
Callaghan came to Maple Creek from Ireland as a young man and enlisted with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1900 during the Boer War. Within a short period of time, he rose from private to corporal to lieutenant. He was among only 16 Canadians to receive the Boer War Distinguished Conduct Medal. However, only four are known to exist today.
The catalogue estimate for the medal was $2,800, but bidding saw it purchased for $7,000. After taxes and auction house service fees, the final amount came to $8,510.25.
The group has received about $5,000 in pledges from the community to offset the cost, but anyone still interested in pledging financial support can contact Kristi Yarshenko at 306-662-3442. Once the pledges have been collected, the SW Sask. Oldtimers’ Museum has offered to issue tax deductible charitable donation receipts.
Hawrylak added there was another medal the group was interested in – an original Treaty 4 medal which was presented to chiefs at the time of the treaty signing.
The Treaty 4 Governance Centre at Fort Qu’Appelle was notified, and a representative from Sakimay First Nation travelled to Ontario to bid on the medal. Their winning bid was $40,000. A welcoming ceremony will be held for the medal when the plane carrying it touches down in Regina later this month, and community development officer Royce Pettyjohn has been asked to attend for having brought the medal to the attention of Nekaneet First Nation. It will be housed at the Treaty 4 Governance Centre.
Hawrylak also reported the Communities in Bloom Committee has developed a 2015 calendar comprised of photos from local gardens. The calendars are $10 each and are available at the visitor’s centre, town office and a few businesses in town.
The town is once again putting out a tender for snow removal in front of and behind the town office. The work must be completed after each snowfall before 7 a.m.
The town and RM of Maple Creek are working together to have repairs done on the landfill road.