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Lack of workers major problem in Melita: Mayor

In this August 2009 photo, residents gather in Melita to mark the RM of Arthur’s 125th anniversary. Melita currently is facing labour and housing shortages.

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In this August 2009 photo, residents gather in Melita to mark the RM of Arthur’s 125th anniversary. Melita currently is facing labour and housing shortages.

Melita is bursting at the seams.

Between the burgeoning oil industry and healthy agricultural sector, the community can’t find enough people to fill the vacant positions in the community and surrounding area.

"We’re having trouble getting workers," Melita Mayor Bob Walker said. "Anyone who wants to work is already working."

The town and surrounding municipalities are having trouble finding maintenance workers, and Walker said the economics of supply and demand has driven up the cost for many employers offering services in the region.

According to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, there were 26 rigs in Manitoba as of Tuesday, with 15 of those rigs active. The lure of big dollars working on iron in the oilpatch or in one of the many service positions — measure while drilling operator, directional driller, vac-truck operator and water hauler, to name a few — has left traditional employers without a workforce. It has also affected the housing market.

According to the Multiple Listing Service, there are 19 houses for sale in Melita — not including private sales — ranging from $35,000 to $349,900, with the average home costing about $172,000. While it’s just a snapshot of the market, for comparison, in June 2012 there were 11 houses for sale ranging from $50,000 to $260,000 with the average home costing $145,000.

The town, according to Walker, is looking at a new subdivision to try to curb the housing crisis, but he said it’s still squeezing the low- to moderate-income families and individuals that are finding it tough to get into the market.

"There’s a lot of people that have friends staying with them that are working in the area," Walker said. "Most of the developers aren’t going to put up rental units, they want to build houses. These houses are $350,000 and that’s not entry-level housing."

It makes it difficult for seniors living on fixed incomes, according to Walker, or retirees looking to move from the farm to the town to find affordable housing.

The town is also getting ready for a PTI Group work camp that is set to open in the fall, according to Walker. PTI Group specializes in providing permanent and temporary workforce accommodations and the group currently operates a 192-room camp north of Waskada and a 102-room camp near Redvers, Sask.

Walker said the lagoon is a major priority for council, as the system must be repaired and upgraded after suffering major flood damage in 2011.

"We have to make sure we have enough lagoon space," Walker said, adding that the community is reaching out to other levels of government for infrastructure money.

While good problems to have, Walker said it’s important for the community to maximize infrastructure improvements while the area is so busy.

He pointed to a community group working to get the hockey arena, curling arena and pool under one governing body while working on upgrades to all three as an example of such initiatives.

But it will also take an investment on behalf of the provincial and federal government to deal with infrastructure deficits in areas such as roads and facilities.

"It’s very busy in terms of what has to be done and what is being done to gear up to be ready for the oil activity and make sure they can get what they need here," Walker said.

» ctweed@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 7, 2013

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Melita is bursting at the seams.

Between the burgeoning oil industry and healthy agricultural sector, the community can’t find enough people to fill the vacant positions in the community and surrounding area.

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Melita is bursting at the seams.

Between the burgeoning oil industry and healthy agricultural sector, the community can’t find enough people to fill the vacant positions in the community and surrounding area.

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