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Councils survey the cost for missing markers

Rural municipalities would like to know who is messing with their survey markers.

A recent Association of Manitoba Municipalities resolution calls on the province to amend legislation so local governments can keep tabs on the markers.

Currently, if survey monuments are disturbed or missing due to construction or oilfield work, the municipalities have no way of knowing who did it, said Mike Dillabough, a councillor with the RM of Winchester.

“What other business do you know of that they send you a bill and you pay it, even though you don’t actually know who called for the original survey,” said Dillabough.

Surveys cost up to $1,500 per day for a full crew travelling out from Winnipeg, and the provincial Survey Monument Restoration Program only reimburses municipalities for half the cost of such work, said Wayne Leeman, director of surveys. (Survey monuments demarcating section corners in Manitoba are typically metal rods three to four feet long with markings showing the date it was placed, and the section, township and range.)

Tom Campbell, of the RM of Albert, said his council has passed a bylaw to recover the rest of it from the “perpetrators,” but without client names and information, they don’t know who to charge for the cost.

“If we knew who was ordering the survey work, we’d send the bill directly to them,” said Campbell.

“I totally believe that the people who order a survey should pay for it, not the taxpayer.”

The costs can be considerable.

Debbie McMechan, of the RM of Edward, said in her area, where the oil industry is booming, the cost of survey monument restoration can top $25,000 a year.

“Lots of times, the oil companies are quite willing to reimburse us for the cost if we only could approach them on it,” she said.

But there’s a high degree of secrecy surrounding oilfield exploration, said Cas Manitowich, deputy examiner of surveys with the provincial Land Titles Office.

“It’s very secret stuff,” he said. “It’s to the point that one company won’t hire a surveyor if he knows that surveyor has worked for a competitor.”

That makes surveyors reluctant to provide details apart from whether it was an oil company, government agency, or a private individual subdividing a piece of property.

Typically, missing or incorrectly placed markers are discovered during a survey, so the crew replaces them and sends the municipality a bill, he said.

Monuments are supposed to be placed every half-mile on the landscape, but some of them may be 100 years old and have faded, or have been obliterated by farm, road or ditch work.

“Nobody knows who is going out to do what, and when they find these things missing, they just restore them,” said Manitowich.

“They (municipalities) get a bill for $10,000 to $15,000 and they have no idea what it’s for. It just shows up.”

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