Holyrood looking at lottery for firewood

By Craig Westcott/February 17, 2023

Holyrood residents who heat their homes with wood may get a crack at entering a lottery to clear Town-owned land as a way to get their fibre for free – short of the labour involved in felling and carting off the trees, that is.

Town councillor and infrastructure and public works committee chairman Steve Winsor told his colleagues last week that one of the policies his committee is reviewing pertains to wood cutting.

“It’s something that we’re trying to look at doing in a fair and equitable manner for the residents, if and when there’s opportunities for a Town project to happen and land needs to be cleared,” said Winsor. “Rather than paying a contractor to go in with a machine to do that, in a lottery type of system an interested resident could get their firewood for the winter. We’re working on that and there will be details to follow. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to deep dive into it here tonight.”

Councillor Bruce King said there was a similar scheme in place on Department of National Defence lands in New Brunswick when he was stationed there with the Canadian Forces.

“We did the exact same thing – a lottery system,” King said. “The area was cut into squares and there were conditions. For example, when you cut you had to make sure all the brush was cleared off into a pile, and if you cut your legs off with the chainsaw, we were not going to owe liability. It works very well, and everybody was quite happy with it. I think if you put something like that in place, you will receive a very positive response.”

Winsor liked what King said and asked if the councillor would vet the policy once a draft of it is ready.

Mayor Gary Goobie interjected that if the Town is looking to get a big piece of land cleared, it could award two or three lottery licences. “I mean, we’re not going to have one person go in and take out 50 cords of wood,” he said. “But anybody who is successful in getting say two or three cords of wood, their name would go at the bottom then until everybody else has an opportunity… We want to do this as fair as possible, because wood today is as precious as gold and oil and water. And it’s not everywhere where people have access to wood. It certainly helps the Town as well, because it frees up our public works (staff) in doing other things rather than clear out an area that we want to open up for a particular development. There’s a lot of benefits to it and there will be a lot of people happy that they can get a supply of wood.”

In other infrastructure committee news:

Winsor says Holyrood needs to develop an asset management policy.

“We’ve been talking about that for a while,” noted the councillor. “It was discussed in the budgetary process as well, that (we have) many kilometres of 50-year-old pipe, and the intense investment that is going to be required. In the budget, we did not allocate money to the asset management (plan). It’s important to remember that, because we are going to have failures that we will have to address. The public works director has done a great job of documenting, recording and prioritizing by risk the different infrastructure in the town. So, it’s something that we’re going to have to have separate discussions and meetings on, and we’ll be bringing forward a policy on ‘What are we going to allocate on an annual basis to proactively address this?’ Otherwise we will be kicking the can down the road to future councils to have a bigger financial problem on their hands.”

The Town is still hearing from residents about problems with retaining walls.

Winsor said the way retaining walls are put up in Holyrood was a concern for him even before he was sworn in as a councillor.

“They are done in a way that is not standardized, there are different ways of doing it, some better, some worse,” he said. “One area in particular is of great concern at the moment and is with legal. So, it’s not appropriate for me to deep dive on that particular property location. But we have received correspondence from different residents asking about retaining walls and what we’re doing, and we are doing something. We are trying to establish some engineering standards, because they do not currently exist.”

And finally, the committee is working on preparing a ‘standing offer’ policy to deal with water main breaks and other emergency needs.

Winsor said the policy needs to be developed in a way that gets the best price for the Town and the most responsive and timely work done at good quality, while also being equitable to the various qualified contractors in the area.

“What we’ve been talking about is some sort of rotational call out basis,” Winsor said. “So more to come on that.”

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