The completion of a new lift station puts the Town of Rosthern on track for strong growth in the coming decades, according to Rosthern Mayor Dennis Helmuth.
“It’s a major infrastructure project that was badly needed,” said Helmuth in an interview on January 16. “Our old lift station was put in during the late 1950s, and the underground line to the lagoon across the highway was just a six-inch asbestos concrete pipe.
“Basically, we were living on borrowed time. We had to replace the lift station and the force main. A new ten-inch line was installed under Highway 11.”
Helmuth said the town’s share of the project, which was cost-shared with the province and the federal government, amounted to about $3.5 million.
“We raised that amount through an infrastructure levy that was implemented quite a number of years ago,” said Helmuth. “So we didn’t have to borrow from the bank to come up with the necessary funds.”
Helmuth said the project was “shovel-ready” at the beginning of 2017 when funding was approved under the new Building Canada Infrastructure program.
“We were ahead of the curve because we had been working on this for a couple of years already, so we were totally ready to go,” said Helmuth. “That was an advantage, because the cost was lower than it might otherwise have been.”
The expanded capacity puts the town in a good position for future growth, said Helmuth.
“It certainly sets us up to bring on new subdivision possibilities when the economy permits,” he said.
The town also has capacity to increase its potable water supply piped in from a well system near the South Saskatchewan River ten kilometers east of town.
“We have our own water treatment plant, but at some point we will need to replace it because it is aging,” said Helmuth. “It is also about 60 years old. It’s served us well but it needs to be replaced. It’s something council and administration is keeping our eye on. We have already purchased a small residential property by the existing water treatment plant, so that at some point we could connect the pipes to the new plant. It’s part of the long-range plan.”
Helmuth said infrastructure is an ongoing challenge, not just for Rosthern, but for all municipalities.
Helmuth said the recent “Friendship Agreement” signed between municipalities that are part of the Twin Rivers District and First Nations communities was a positive step.
“We’re collaborating on developing a solid waste management strategy,” said Helmuth. “That is just one of a number of mutual issues.”
Helmuth and Beardy’s & Okemasis Chief Roy Petit have been invited to speak on the collaborative plan at the upcoming Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Ottawa in February.
Helmuth said the fundraising campaign for a new hospital in Rosthern is progressing well.
“We’re anticipating an announcement hopefully sooner rather than later from the provincial government,” said Helmuth. “This is another project that is being coordinated throughout the Twin Rivers District. It’s very much a regional initiative.
“We’re anticipating our share of the project to be about $7 million, and I believe we’re currently sitting at about the $3 million mark.”
Helmuth said residents are looking forward to the start of construction of the new K-12 school in Rosthern which will replace the existing elementary and high schools. The new school was announced by the province last year.
“They’ll be building it for an initial capacity of 400 students, with the potential to increase to 500 students with the addition of modules in the future,” said Helmuth.
“It’s going to be an amazing facility, and one that is very badly needed.”
Helmuth said several private initiatives are in the works, including an extensive renovation of the old Saskatchewan Valley News building, which now houses the Rosthern Food Bank.
“The building, which is a real landmark in town, has been restored,” said Helmuth. “It’s really captured local interest, and I think it’s a very positive initiative. It’s more than a food bank because it also has educational components where they teach people cooking and gardening skills and provide nutrition information.”
Helmuth said a major fundraiser for the project was held recently.
“They raised $60,000 in a single evening,” he said. “That was pretty amazing.”
The town also has a new privately-owned liquor and beer venue, as well as a Hepburn Co-op gas station. A new malting plant is set to begin operation to supply locally-grown malt exclusively for the craft beer industry.
“There is a large malt plant in Biggar, but this is more specialized,” said Helmuth. “It’s quite exciting because there’s nothing like it east of Alberta.”