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MD of Bighorn adds office trailers to ease staffing space crunch

“You’ve probably noticed a few new faces in this building. The team has grown quite significantly in the last few months and we don’t have room for everybody anymore.”

MD OF BIGHORN – Space is getting tight at the MD of Bighorn administration office in Exshaw.

The MD’s municipal planning commission (MPC) approved the addition of two ATCO office trailers on site to help temporarily accommodate recent hires and any future MD of Bighorn staffing additions before the municipal district’s new operations shop is scheduled for completion about two years from now.

“You’ve probably noticed a few new faces in this building. The team has grown quite significantly in the last few months and we don’t have room for everybody anymore,” said Bighorn’s director of planning and development services Hayley Gavin.

“This is a temporary measure. … Once the [operations shop] is constructed and the occupancy certificate is issued, the basement here will basically get cleared out, as well as the staff who are going to be utilizing the ATCO office trailers, and then we would no longer need those at this location.”  

Just in recent months, the MD has hired five new full-time staff members – a deputy fire chief, infrastructure services engineer, communications coordinator, manager of operational services and a human resources and payroll coordinator.

The MD already has a 10-foot by 32-foot ATCO trailer for temporary office space behind the administration building that has been there since July 2022 but had not yet been approved by MPC. The MD’s development permit also includes the addition of a second 10-foot by 24-foot trailer. Each accommodates two offices.

The MD of Bighorn has long planned to build a new administration building to address space constraints and growing administrative needs; however, plans have been repeatedly pushed back. It was last earmarked for construction in 2025, but 2024 budget discussions slated it for 2029, recognizing the number of capital projects and associated costs the MD has planned over the next several years.

Gavin noted the addition of another ATCO trailer will impact on-site parking.

The existing trailer takes up two staff parking stalls and the new one would occupy another two stalls.

“Parking is definitely a consideration with this one. We have a pretty small parking lot here and, of course, with all the additional staff members, it does tend to get crowded some days,” she said.

The MD has implemented a compressed work schedule for eligible employees, allowing staff to work remotely up to two days per week, or work longer days to earn one day off every four weeks. Some staff are also required to park at the existing operations facility located on the north side of Mount Allen Drive.

Gavin said, this, along with staff carpooling, has helped alleviate some parking pressures, but not all. She acknowledged there are some staff also using parking stalls designated for the public in front of the building.

She further noted adding additional parking stalls to the site is not feasible. The property is bound to the north by Exshaw School, to the west by the Lafarge Exshaw Cement Plant, to the east by the rear alley of Mount Allen Drive and to the south by Highway 1A.

The development permit also came with a 2.75-metre variance request to the rear yard of the administration building – a 54 per cent relaxation to the minimum rear yard setback requirement.

Planning commissioner and one of council’s representatives Alice James asked about the MD’s compliance with on-site parking availability and expressed concern about public parking availability.

“I just want to be sure that the public always has a place to park in front of the building and that if we’re not able to do that, that we find alternative parking somewhere else,” she said.

Gavin assured the MD is compliant with the minimum amount of parking stalls required at the site and no additional stalls would be needed for the new ATCO trailer.

If deemed necessary, more staff could also be required to park at another MD facility, such as the current operations site, she suggested.

Planning commissioner Jenn Smith pointed out one of the two stalls the new ATCO trailer would occupy is also a barrier-free stall.

The National Building Code 2023 Alberta edition requires at least two stalls be designated as barrier-free for between 11 and 25 parking stalls.

“How do we keep it in compliance making sure we have the required number of barrier-free stalls?” Smith, one of council’s representatives, asked.

Gavin said lines would need to be reconfigured and further suggested a condition could be considered to ensure staff are not utilizing public parking stalls, west of the front doors of the administration building.

“We’ll definitely have to look at our staff parking and, I guess, come up with an alternative plan if it is an ongoing issue and enforcing it on ourselves to make sure that we’re not impacting other use on this site,” she said.

“We can add a condition that we cannot be using certain stalls for staff parking (...). I really think in this situation it’s the best thing we can do and just to reiterate it’s a temporary measure, albeit for a couple of years – hopefully less. That is the intent of this is that it’s not going to be an issue forever, but in the relatively short-term – two years.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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