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Exshaw residents given platform to ask about McElhanney report

Coun. Lisa Rosvold put forward an unsuccessful motion to hold an online town hall for residents to put their questions directly to the consultant.

EXSHAW – Exshaw residents have until Feb. 3 to prepare and submit questions about a recent physical hydrogeological assessment to receive more clarity on the groundwater report.

Written questions can be submitted to the MD of Bighorn’s website, which will be forwarded to hydrogeologist Roger Towsley, a consultant with McElhanney, and answered in a written response no later than March 12.

Residents and resident groups raised questions about the assessment after it was released in December, said Bighorn CAO Robert Ellis, which prompted the process for responding to community inquiries.

“Undertaking this process, I hope the consultant’s responses will help clarify the McElhanney report and provide a clarity and understanding for the data used,” said Ellis.

The report looked at groundwater flooding that occurred at the east end of Exshaw last spring and includes information on yearly flooding in the hamlet.  

Ellis added the community questions must be specific to information and conclusions contained in the report and include references. Queries will be vetted to avoid similar questions being asked, but council will receive a copy of all questions and upon receiving the consultant’s answers, the feedback will be posted on the MD’s website.

“This is an opportunity for Exshaw residents to get their questions in, which is significantly different than council’s questions,” said Councillor Paul Ryan.

Council passed several motions to move forward with the process, including allowing a maximum of $10,000 for McElhanney to undertake the questionnaire work.

Coun. Lisa Rosvold questioned the potentially steep price tag, adding she was not certain administration's pitched process would provide the clarity residents seek.

“The questions east Exshaw residents have a lot of, have already been shared with council and revolve around the desire to have an open and transparent conversation and communication," said Rosvold.

"I fear that the vetting part in in the process will prevent some of the questions actually being asked and the community will be looking for answers even after this costly report is published."

Rosvold put forward a motion for a virtual, two-hour forum to cut costs and allow residents to speak with Towsley directly.

However, it was noted from Ellis, Coun. Paul Clark and Reeve Dene Cooper that some questions could be too detailed for Towsley to answer on the spot.

“I think it is a very thorough and professionally written report and I think the questions asked of it should be very thoroughly organized and written because a written response has legal reference after the fact that a town hall meeting conversation does not have," said Cooper.

Coun. Erik Butters added: "I have certainly heard [Rosvold's] request about transparency and if that’s still an issue after the report, we have can deal with it then."

The motion was defeated in a 3-2 vote.

Council then unanimously approved three motions: the process for questions to be submitted regarding the report; council to receive a copy of all unfettered questions from the community; and providing a maximum of $10,000 for McElhanney to undertake the work.