RM of Hillsdale celebrates 100 years

The Rural Municipality of Hillsdale, No. 440, celebrated its 100th anniversary June 12 at the spring ratepayers' meeting held in the Neilburg Community Hall.

Unfortunately the celebrations were a bit subdued due to the presence of several disgruntled ratepayers at the business meeting held later in the evening. One woman asked the administrator and the entire council t0 resign, but no one chose to step down from their positions of authority.

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The evening began with a delicious roast beef supper. Robin McCrae, of the Baldwinton district, was the master of ceremonies. Grace was said by Bernadette Poppleton, the councillor for division 3.

Larry Doke, the MLA for the Cut Knife/Turtleford constituency brought greetings on behalf of Premier Brad Wall and gave his "congratulations on this very special day" and "significant milestone." He noted the "people of the RM of Hillsdale epitomize the character of the people of Saskatchewan" and they illustrate the province's motto "Multis E gentibus vires," Latin for "From Many Peoples Strength."

According to the provincial website, "This motto expresses Saskatchewan's multicultural heritage, the combination of First Nations and Metis cultures, and the key role of immigration in the province. The root meaning of the Latin gens (from which gentibus is derived) is 'people' in the sense of race or origin. The word vires connotes vigour, energy and mental strength. The Latin rendering was suggested by words of a poem by the Roman poet, Catullus."

Doke and Reeve Glenn Goodfellow ceremonially cut a cake to mark the occasion of the centennial. It was later served as dessert at the conclusion of the meal.

Photographs were also taken of the council and of former councillors with the current administration. The two former councillors in attendance were Reno Bertoia, division 2, and Alex Herle, division 3. The current council are: Reeve Glenn Goodfellow, elected in 2008; Trevor McCrea, division 1, elected in 2010; Jerry Petovello, division 2, elected in 2006; Bernadette Poppleton, division 3, elected in 2012; Vincent Murphy, division 4, elected in 1994; Jessie Whitney division 5, elected in 2008; Miles O'Grady, division 6, elected in 2009 and secretary-treasurer/administrator Janet Black, who started in 2002.

The guest speaker for the evening was Dwayne Smith, who is the chair of the Surface Rights Board of Arbitration for Saskatchewan. He spoke, at length, regarding what to do if an oilman calls at your door asking for rights and the terms and conditions you may wish to include in any agreement. He also gave advice on how to prepare if you need to come before the board as a landowner.

Janet Black read the minutes of the last ratepayers' meeting in April 2011. These were passed as read.

A resolution was made and carried to begin to publish the minutes of the regular monthly RM meetings online. Until now, anyone interested to learn what went on had to go into the office and pay a $10 fee to receive the package of minutes.

Reeve Goodfellow brought his report, beginning with a bit of history. He noted that in 1909 John Parker contacted his local MLA to request the implementation of a Local Improvement District. This was done in 1910. In 1913, all Local Improvement Districts became rural municipalities.

Goodfellow thanked Joan Gibb for compiling historical information for the event, which was on display. This information included many photographs. Some of these were pictures of the rural schools in the RM which were Sumner, Lilydale, Euclid, Roland View, Mount Ethel, Flat Lake, Cozy Nook, Carruthers and Reading. There were also photographs of the 75th anniversary of the RM, held in 1988.

Copies of council minutes from various issues of the Cut Knife Grinder, Highway 40 Courier and the Neilburg Star, which was published in Lashburn, from the 1950s and 1960s were also interesting archival reading. There were also photographs of the successive RM buildings.

The first meeting of what would become the RM of Hillsdale was held at the home of John Parker, built in 1907, on SW-24-43-25-W3. The next place the RM was located was on the 1913 homestead of John "Ed" Shannon, at SE-27-46-24-W3. The site of the original RM office was on SE 36-45-24-W3. The second RM of Hillsdale office was built in 1935 at Freemont. This building was moved to Neilburg in 1967 and used until 1992, when it was sold. It is now the office of RCM Accounting & Payroll. The current office, on L.E. Gibbons Centre Street, was built and opened in 1992.

Goodfellow stated, during the last two years, considerable road construction had been done. This included five miles of the Waseca Grid, also known as Cozy Nook road; 2.5 miles of 675 South; 1.75 miles of the boundary road near Brian Gibb's farm; and a portion of the Freemont Road was worked on to allow for better highway access. Other smaller projects were also undertaken.

Goodfellow noted the RM had contributed $2 per capita to STARS ambulance, as suggested through a resolution at the SARM convention. He noted, since the cancellation of the local ambulance service June 1, STARS has already landed in Hillsdale to offer emergency medical care twice.

Goodfellow also informed the ratepayers the snowplowing budget for this past winter was $350,679, which is three to four times the cost expected during a "normal" winter. He said there were 186 miles of road and 18 yard sites the RM plowed out during the winter months. In the summer, Hillsdale has 303 miles of roadway to maintain. He was pleased that, with help from various local citizens, the RM managed to have everyone plowed out after the huge storm this spring within four days. Other municipalities took much longer to get to all the required yard sites.

This spring the RM has also had to deal with over 30 culverts with washouts or cave-ins. This has, according to Goodfellow, "put the grading program a month behind." The RM has approximately 40,000 yards of gravel stockpiled but they are looking for more sources for this valuable resource. He noted road inspection will be held later this week, including on roads near Carruthers that are currently in poor condition.

Goodfellow also noted 2013 was a re-evaluation year for assessment of land values. The assessed value of the land within the RM of Hillsdale increased by 47 per cent.

In other business, one gentleman complained the minutes were not being read at the regular council meetings but only adopted as circulated. He felt this has meant there has been less accountability and some errors, that could have been corrected, were missed.

He was also concerned about the bidding process the RM has been using. Apparently the RM asked a local contractor for a rate sheet so they could budget for gravel costs. Gravel was later tendered and the local contractor lost out as there was a lower bidder. He questioned if it was possible for "a leak" to have occurred and suggested this was "tainted bidding" and should be stopped.

He also felt the administrator was doing things, such as writing letters to people, when not directed to do so in the council minutes. "The RM has to take control and not the administrator," he said, suggesting there was a need for a policy manual.

There was also confusion over the hiring of a weed inspector as the person who has previously filled that position had not received a letter of appointment in January 2013. She did, however, receive notice of a course for weed inspectors in April, but by the time she learned of it, it was too late for her to make arrangements to attend. The reeve promised this situation would be researched and hopefully resolved in the near future.

Another gentleman asked for a scale to be put in place so that large trucks and super-Bs could be weighed, if desired. He noted since the elevator has been gone there has been no accurate way to weigh goods. There was an informal "show of hands" and most ratepayers seemed to approve of the idea of having a scale for use of this nature. It was suggested possibly a scale could be erected at the Freemont Transfer site. Another individual thought this project should be done in conjunction with the neighbouring RM of Manitou Lake.

When asked about the possibility of hosting a hazardous waste day, council noted there was no plan to do so, although one has not been held in the area since 2010. Administrator Black suggested people take their old electronics and paint cans to Sarcan for disposal. It was also stated citizens must not put paint cans or used oil containers in their regular household garbage. These cannot be put in the recycle bins, near the RM building, either, as they contaminate the load which must then be disposed of in the landfill and cannot be recycled as intended.

Mention was also made of two pending lawsuits. According to Councillor Petovello, both of these are claims for damages of loss. Others stated one was in regard to fraudulent charges and the second was because of flooding on a ratepayer's property which has required relocation of heavy equipment, resulting in additional expenses to operate a business. MC McCrea stated these possible lawsuits should not be addressed or discussed as they were before the courts.

The meeting was then adjourned and door prizes were drawn. Keith Paton, Vonnie Rutherford and Scott Goodfellow were the lucky winners.

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