Mainroad East Kootenay — the contracting company that manages the highway maintenance and snow clearing work in the region — is moving its base of operations for the Upper Columbia Valley from Athalmer to Fairmont Hot Springs.
The new site should be up and running by October.
“The ground is presently under construction,” Mainroad East Kootenay general manager Al Sander told The Echo, adding there were several reasons for the relocation, but chief among them was that under the company’s new contract it has fewer bases of operation throughout the East Kootenay.
“So, with fewer locations, we need to place our bases in strategic locations,” he said, adding that the company’s main base will remain in Cranbrook.
“Basically, our old base in Kimberley will be closed and our old base in Invermere (Athalmer) will be closed and we will instead be operating out of Fairmont,” said Sander. “There’s a lot of development in the Upper Columbia Valley and this puts our shop right in the middle of it.”
Among the other reasons for the move was that the current facility in Athalmer is government-owned.
“We were unable to stay there anymore because from what we understand, the government wants to shut it up and clean it up,” said Sander.
He doesn’t know exactly why the government wants to close the facility, but said he has heard about the possibility that it could be to eventually help straighten out the S-curve in Panorama Drive through Athalmer.
“I don’t know. All we were told was the day after we move out, the wrecking ball will be in there,” he said.
The new location in Fairmont is on a three-acre property — although only one and a half acres will be used for the base —situated right next to the airport, between it and the highway.
Part of the reason for the selecting that site, according to Sander, was “we need to find properties that are environmentally stable. When you’re dealing with the amount of salt we are, we are always looking for properties where we can control salt contamination easily and this is one of those properties.”
At least one Fairmont Hot Spring resident has raised concerns about the new base of operations.
Tom Symington contacted The Echo, saying he is “shocked at the location” and that “to have a highway maintenance shop right beside the highway blemishes the entrance to Fairmont.”
Symington said he was also unimpressed that, as far as he is aware, the move was not formally announced.
“At this point, there seems be lots of questions what it is going to look like when completed,” said Regional District of EastKooteany (RDEK) Area F director Wendy Booth. “Time will tell. With the base of their operations in Fairmont, we could see an improvement in the level of winter road service. Again, time will tell what the impacts will be.”
Sander, however, is confident the new site will not be unsightly.
“Part of our development is that we have to have some kind of security fence. That isn’t always pretty, but we are going toplant trees outside the fence and keep it as neat and tidy as possible. It won’t be unsightly. All our products — sand andsalt — will be kept under covers,” he said. “The facility will be completed to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. We’redeveloping these places so we that we can serve the public.”
The new facility’s target opening date is October 1st and Sander said that even if the buildings aren’t 100 per cent complete, his team will still be moved in and fully operational by then.