After first fielding the request earlier this year, Rocky View County (RVC) council approved $65,000 in funding to help with electrical upgrades at the Kathyrn, Irricana, Beiseker, Acme (KIBA) Seed Cleaning Plant, at its June 20 meeting.
The current electrical system at the plant was installed in 1978, when the Beiseker-based facility was first constructed, and was overdue for an upgrade.
But the necessity of those upgrades became even more apparent in the past year, when instability in the power grid in the Beiseker region led to dangerous arcing upon start-up of the plant’s industrial seed cleaning machines and an increased fire risk to the plant itself.
The $65,000 contributed by RVC will go toward the total cost of the electrical system upgrades, which is estimated to be anywhere between $125,000 and $150,000.
The KIBA seed cleaning plant cooperative was first established in Rocky View County in 1956.
It cleans between 750,000 and 900,000 bushels of seed each year, and provides subsurface fungicide and insecticide treatment for between 200,000 and 300,000 bushels of seed annually.
It is a key partner of RVC in helping to prevent the spread of weeds and fungal crop invasives within the County’s agricultural lands.
At the May 9 council meeting, when the motion to fund KIBA was first brought forward for consideration, Division 2 Coun. Don Kochan wondered aloud if it was appropriate for council to fund a private business enterprise like KIBA, even if it was run by a longstanding cooperative membership.
“I know it’s a good cause,” he stated at the time, “but I do think they have enough membership to look after their needs. There are also all sorts of government grants that are available for this type of upgrade requirement. I don’t think Rocky View should get into the habit of funding private businesses of this nature.”
However, with the item back on RVC council’s agenda six weeks later, Kochan appeared to be satisfied on that point when he asked administration during the June 20 meeting if there were any other provincial government grants available to fund such upgrades?
“I believe KIBA did explore provincial grants,” responded RVC’s manager of operational services, Jeff Fleischer. “At this time, there were no grants available for the electrical plant. I know previously when they upgraded the colour sorter, they did utilize provincial grants for a majority of that work. But at this time, there were no provincial grants currently available to them.”
Fleischer also explained, in response to Kochan’s inquiry, that KIBA had only ever received a small council grant of $26,000 when it first constructed its 1978 building. This was its first funding request since the 1980s.
Division 1 Coun. Kevin Hanson also asked staff to clarify what beneficial environmental services KIBA provides to the County.
"The fact that we’re cleaning weed seeds out of field plantings, does that help protect our County municipal reserves and road right of way ditches from infestation of weeds?” Hanson asked.
Fleischer responded that yes, that is the case.
“That would help County infrastructure as well as agricultural producers for not spreading seeds amongst each other,” he said.
Coun. Greg Boehlke, who represents the Beiseker region on council, said he was pleased to make a motion to support KIBA and thereby support local agriculture with the $65,000 in grant funding.
“We get so very few chances to support agriculture in the county through whatever,” Boehlke said. “I look at this as a chance. I know if you support a community hall for electrical upgrades, they charge for the use of it. It’s not like we’re setting a new precedent here.”
Boehlke’s motion then passed unanimously.