Original Published on Jun 14, 2022 at 23:01

By Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

June 10th, 2022

Steve Mazurak, the Mayor of the Resort Village of Pelican Pointe, and Tom Fulcher, the spokesperson for a group of 4 Resort Villages (RVs) in the RM, said they were surprised the RM of McKillop rejected their offer to resolve the ongoing disagreement over the responsibility and cost of maintaining the RM roads leading into the RVs.

 Steve Mazurak said, “…in my heart of hearts, I’m disappointed we are being singled out and threatened on this matter. We want a good relationship with the RM.”

 Fulcher also said that he “truly” thought the RM would accept their offer or continue dialogue over the offer.

 There are 5 RVs in the RM – Island View, Pelican Pointe, Glen Harbour, Saskatchewan Beach and Sunset Cove. However, after Council rejected the offer – the RVs of Island View and Pelican Pointe will see the speed limits on those access roads reduced from 80 km/hr to 30 km/hr. Members of the Council called the offer a “pittance” and “peanuts.” They said the reduction would address the safety issue. The RM said they would return the speed limits to their previous limit when an agreement was reached. A few councillors suggested going even further by decreasing the weight limits on the access roads and discussed the impact it could have on sewage hauling.

 Mazurak says the RVs have never wanted or expected a free ride from the RM …the RV spent over $100,000 on recent roadwork, and residents feel they have paid their fair share. Fulcher said the Resort Village of Sunset Cove installed clay-capping on their RM access road, costing $70,000…the RM didn’t contribute to this project.

For decades, the RVs were paying thousands of dollars annually for what they were lead to believe were valid road maintenance agreements (RMA). But, the RV later learned that these weren’t RMA but servicing agreements. He said RVs are not required by any legislation to enter into an RMA. They recently tried to find any other RVs in the province that paid their RM to service the RM roads leading into their community but couldn’t find any, says Fulcher.“From our research, it appears that the RM practice of requiring RVs to pay for maintenance of RM roads is unprecedented anywhere else in Saskatchewan.”

 Fulcher said the recent offer made by the RVs was that they were willing to pay 100% of the costs for an additional six gradings on the four roads per summer and 100% of the cost for 50 cubic yards of gravel per mile. He said the amount would be in addition to what the RM would provide for grading and gravel.

 Mazurak said the RM’s Road Services Agreement policy sets the rates and doesn’t understand why the RM is resorting to hardline tactics. “Policy is policy…we pay appropriately.” Fulcher added that “this 2-year old dispute with the RM is all over just 2% of the gravel roadways the RM maintains each year. Included within this 2% are two RM resorts and several RM farms and businesses. In reality, the four resort villages likely have sole use of less than 1% of the roadways within the RM. We have offered the RM thousands of dollars per year to help offset their costs of maintaining this 1%.”

 The RM refuses to deal with the RVs as a group and will only meet with them individually. At a meeting on September 28, 2021, Councilor Dixon said about negotiating individually with each village- “but we have tried to get them to the table, we have tried the divide and conquer routine…which is the way to go, I agree, but it hasn’t worked.”

 Mayor Mazurak said it was when the RVs started to work together that the RM went ballistic. “Our RV group of four have many mutual and like-minded items ranging anywhere from land and water stewardship, wildlife protection, lagoon partnership, road maintenance, land development, safety, RCMP, fire services and the like. I don’t know why the RM is intimated by our group as it is very efficient and saves time not having to negotiate with 4 RV villages individually.” Mazurak said that people have told him that the RM is acting like a schoolyard bully.

 Mazurak said they are sending the RM a letter repeating their request for gravel in accordance with the RM’s new maintenance policy.

 In September 2021, Fulcher said after the RM spent years demanding road maintenance agreements, the RVs took the RM to a binding hearing in front of the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) with the hope of resolving the dispute. They felt the SMB would not require them to enter into an RMA with the RM, and even if they did, the fees would only be a few hundred dollars per year because all RMA fees are legislated under Municipal Regulations. However, Fulcher said that during the pre-hearing conference, the RM surprised everyone by saying they did not want an RMA with the resort villages and never did, and the SMB didn’t deliver a ruling.

“It is important to note that road maintenance agreements are the only legislative process in Saskatchewan that allows RMs to recoup maintenance and damages on RM roads.” Fulcher said, “Outside of an RMA, there is no legal mechanism for the RM to mandate the RVs to provide funding on these roadways.”

 “One of the reasons we are surprised our offer was not accepted is that our offer exceeded the latest dollar amount requested from the RM in 2021. We actually offered them more money than what they were asking in 2021, and they still made recent comments during their council meeting using words such as “this is a pittance.” We do not understand their thought process here. Fulcher said he feels like the RM doesn’t value the resort villages as being part of the RM community or recognize their financial contributions towards strongly supporting local RM businesses, and through their taxes which provide funding towards local libraries, school boards, fire departments, policing services, etc. Three of the RV are also members of the community landfill and lagoon. “We are part of this community. I don’t know why they think we have to be a taxpayer to be considered a part of the community. While we may not pay our property taxes directly to the RM, we are still huge contributors to this community in so many other ways.”

 “We hope the community will recognize that, although there is no legal requirement for our resort villages to pay for any roadway maintenance, we still chose to offer thousands of dollars to the RM each year for roadway maintenance, for the 1% of roads that we use, in an attempt to demonstrate that we truly are supportive and contributing members of this community”.

 Fulcher said he believes a solution to this dispute can be and is still hopeful that cooler heads can prevail. “If the RM is willing, we would consider going to the SMB to enter into their mediation process to see if we can resolve this issue there.”

LMT contacted the RM of McKillop, including the CAO, Reeve, and all of the Councilors for comment. None were received before publication.

Note: These reports are abridged for content

This item reprinted with permission from Last Mountain Times, Nokomis, Saskatchewan