Editorial - Water protection paramount

Yorkton Council found itself with a bit of a hot potato at its regular meeting Feb. 22.

And that hot potato is Uncle Weiner's Wholesale/Mega Savers Outlet which wants to locate in the Rural Municipality of Wallace in the building formerly in use as Castle Building Centre.

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On the surface this is one of those 'give it the stamp of approval and applaud' items for a Council, since every community covets new business because those businesses pay property taxes and they employ people who in turn pay taxes.

In fact, Mayor Mitch Hippsley made that rather clear from the get go in his remarks on the issue stating "we as the City of Yorkton are very pro business."

In this case though being pro business got trumped, or at the very least put on the back-burner in terms of this development.

The proposed location for the business happens to be over top of one of the aquifers Yorkton draws water from, and since wrecking vehicles for salvage is part of the proposal City Administration was throwing up a red flag that old cars are filled with things like dirty oil, transmission fluid and motor coolant that if not handled properly might leech into the aquifer which would be bad for the City's water supply.

There was also concern a salvage yard was unsightly on a highway entrance to the city, but there is a similar business on Highway 52 as you enter the city, and portable signs with gaudy neon coloured lettering are still prevalent down Broadway Street, so aesthetic concerns might seem a red herring.

Water safety is not.

In fact, the Yorkton Regional Planning District Commission suggested with concern for risk to environmental and groundwater contamination, that the developer provide an environmental study to be completed by a qualified engineer.

That might seem like the end of debate, simply hand the matter to a qualified engineer to determine how safe the businesses processes might be when related to the water aquifer

But, this is not such a simple matter. The property is in the Rural Municipality of Wallace, so ultimately the City will have limited control over whatever is put in place, should the business move forward.

It was finally Councilor Chris Wyatt that pointed out the pitfalls that might lie ahead, even with a tentative approval based on an environmental study being carried out.

Wyatt asked who would monitor and plan to assure safe water, who would pay if there was a problem, and what was the dispute mechanism given the property is not in the City limits?

Those questions quieted discussions as clear answers just were not available, and given the importance of water safety and the costs that might be involved with if contamination were to occur, rather clear and detailed answers are required before Council nods approval.

When the answers were not immediately forthcoming, Wyatt moved to table the item until the April 26 meeting of Council allowing time for more information to be gathered. With a tabling motion in place further debate was not allowed.

While business promotion is important it is not always the paramount responsibility of Council, and wisely this development's approval has been put on hold as the item was tabled until April, as the City seeks answers to some very pertinent questions.

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