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QUESTION ADDRESSED TO MORINVILLE COUNCIL AND MAYORAL CANDIDATES

To all town council / mayoral candidates; I would like to know what if anything you hope / plan to do to clean up our town. Specifically I point to the empty and most often ugly lots on 100 Avenue and the awful smell coming from Champion Pet Foods that hovers over our town. I point to these two examples as the most glaring in my mind but there are others.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Good Afternoon Two great questions First on 100 Avenue.

    As part of the initial 2011 budget discussions, the current council has allocated monies for the development of a downtown plan for 100 Avenue. Out of this plan will come numerous strategies including streetscape beautification. It may or may not be the same as 100 st but I think we all agree that initiative has significantly improved the look and feel of that street. I assure you, as your Mayor, the plan for 100 Avenue will not sit on a shelf.
    In regards the vacant lots and their appearance. We have just strengthened the capacity in the by-law enforcement area by doubling the amount of Peace Officers. They have a mandate to be pro-active in addressing unsightly properties. While it is unlikely we can enforce the vacant properties on our Main street to be maintained at a “park” standard, we can certainly ensure the sites are reasonably maintained. There is absolutey no reason for the grass to be a foot tall or higher. The Peace officers will also ensure there are no noxious weeds growing on those lots as well. Ideally I would like to see the those lots filled with new buildings and businesses. One of the key planks in my election platform will address economic diversification. Those ideas will be presented when those questions arise.

    As far as Champion Pet Foods. The Town has, and is, working with the Management of this business. It was really unfortunate when they located in Town over a decade ago that no emission standards were put in place. However, this past year the Town Council agreed to uphold a development permit for futher expansion of their plant unless they agreed to put odor mitigation in place. To assist Champion the council unanimously agreed to a $60,000 tax rebate spread over 5 years IF the mitigation strategy worked. Earlier this year, a Plasma Injection system was put in place at a cost of $500,000.00 to Champion to address the odor. CLEARLY IT IS NOT WORKING. As late as last week our CAO, Ms. Edie Doepker met with the management of Champion to address this issue, yet again. She is also sending Champion all emails and is tracking all phone calls so we can provide them first hand with the concerns we are receiving. I would suggest you also contact Champion directly with your concerns. We continue to receive assurances from Champion they are concerned and that they want to be a good corporate citizen, but as yet …

  2. Hello and thank you for submitting your question!
    Mr. Bertschi has done a good job of filling you in on the past history of these issues and the plans that the previous town council had put into place – however, it’s an election year and we all know that plans can change.
    It was very disheartening for me to learn, from a staff member, that our local Fields store left Morinville because it could not find suitable alternative commercial space. Like you have mentioned, there are several vacant lots on 100 Avenue that should be useable commercial space and not just a plot of weeds. We have a serious problem with the decline of activity in our downtown core and need to address the revitalization of this area. I agree that there has been a significant improvement to the look of 100 street with the addition of the new street lights and sign holders. As a member of the Centennial Committee, I know that there has been a lot of ideas and plans for similar projects along 100 Avenue, including ones relating to Morinville’s Centennial. But we need to be addressing the problem with downtown as a whole and looking at the big picture. The Morinville Downtown Plan (available for download on the Town’s website) was adopted by council in 1984. It has tons of great ideas and plans for the beautification of our downtown, including plans to stimulate the infilling of the vacant lots. However, it does not seem that these ideas were adopted into the current plan for the town. Morinville’s Town Council needs to be more proactive at making Morinville’s downtown a centre for commercial and community activity. An active and vibrant downtown would be an incredibly beautiful thing.
    The issue of air quality and odor control in our Town is one of the most important priorities that we need to address. We can’t be looking at creating a strong package to attract new commercial and business investors to Morinville when the first impression that they get is that our town stinks. I am sure that the previous council acted in good faith when making their agreement with Champion Pet Foods, but it is very clear, even from their own promotional material, that this was not a solution but a temporary fix. It states in the press release put out by Champion that the filters were “designed to eliminate up to 80% of the previous level of odor.” Up to 80 percent is not good enough and because it relates to previous levels it does not factor in any plans for expansion or increase in output by the company.
    I have been attending Town Council meetings for the past months as an observer and have seen this issue on the agenda several times. I do agree with Mr. Bertschi that we need to be more vocal and engaged in this issue, so please let town council know of your concerns – by letter, by requesting to address Council with your concerns and by your vote in the upcoming election. Morinville needs a town council that can take a strong stance on this issue and achieve quick results.

  3. As a General reminder to readers, although it is clearly posted in the EDITOR’s NOTE above, ONLY CANDIDATES are eligible to reply to the Ask-A-Candidate feature. We welcome new questions from readers, but want to ensure that ALL candidates and only candidates are given the opportunity to reply.

    This is not a back and forth debate. It is question, answer, you decide sort of thing.

  4. Thank you for your comments and concerns, by the way I second your thoughts on these issues.

    Keeping our streets and sidewalks clean. First of all I believe that the town should purchase a street sweeper and clean our street on a regular basis; we just need to look at them now. Now we only have our streets done twice a year and we must hire a contractor to do so, plus we needed to clean our streets for St Jean-Baptise day and we had to hire the Town of Legal Sweeper to do it for us (a Town of over 1000 people have the equipment that we should have, does that sound odd to you?). We need to have more garbage cans around town, not only on 100 Avenue or 100 Street but all over. One place might be beside every outdoor mail box.

    Empty and ugly lots. We need to advise (some may say force) the empty commercial and residential lot owners in our town; to built or sell to someone who will build. An empty lot does not do justice to our community; especially on 100 Ave and 100 Street commercial layouts. For the last three years that I’ve been on Council I convinced Council that this should be done – one solution that I recommended and was passed unanimously by Council is to raise their tax base by 50% each year giving them some incentive to build or sell. This was done for years 1 and 2 then on year 3 it was voted to only do 25%. One Councillor stated why “is this an election year?…”

    Morinville needs to rethink on how we would like to see 100 Avenue and other streets in Morinville in the near future to look like. I know that 100 Avenue road belong to the Province, however the buildings, businesses, lands and so on do NOT, do we let them die, where has the Downtown Beautification gone? Do you want our Town to become a Ghost Town; Ladies and Gentlemen I think NOT and hope you are thinking the same way! When visitors come and visit, what do you think their first impression is?

    Peace Officers in Morinville have an important role to play in our community. Properties in our community that have unsightly lots (or ugly lots as you mentioned) or nauseous weeds on their property are asked to clean it up. However, some of the owners are not living in town and honestly don’t care. The legal process allows some time to get these properties cleaned up but sometimes it takes a while to make this happen. We need to be more active in our duties. Furthermore, it is not enough that Council also wants a clean town, but should be the first to cleaning up their lots and then the remainder of the community. What is good for the Goose should be good for the Gander.

    I too moved into this community and remained here after retiring from the Military after 22+ years of services and made Morinville my home.

    Your concern is not only yours it’s also mine; plus I heard this many times at Council Meetings, on the Street, and the smell tells it all. Administration and the Mayor have been working with the Champion Pet Food Plant on this issue.

    – They started at looking at methods to reduce the smell/odour of the plant.
    – Then decided to put in some sort of pill/air fresher into the system. That worked on days that the plant was not cooking.
    – Then another meeting was set up to discuss that the air fresher was not working and what is the plant going to do about it. They decided that a new filter system would be installed at a cost of over 500K.
    – This took a while to be done (not all the plants’ fault) as the manufacture was not getting the material needed to the plant fast enough.
    – The filter arrived however; there should have been two and only one came. More delay.
    – Finally after all the materials arrived at the plant – now we have another issue; we need to have a person install it (they did have one set up, however; because of the shipping delay they lost the installer)
    – The plant finally gets a person to install the filters and it seems that the system was working.
    – I guess I spoke to soon – as after a month or so we been getting the same old smell/odour from the plant as we did in the past. The plant was advised to fix it, and I believe they are trying to do the best they can.

    Town Council had been taking steps to make this odour/smell disappear, however we have not been totally successful. I know that the Champion Food Plant has been working hard to solve this situation (not fast enough for most residents in Morinville) they themselves are not sure why the filter system they put in is not working as guaranteed by the manufacture; my understanding is that they are working with them to solve this situation.

    As for monitoring and more action, the province has it inspectors who do the run and check for these types of situations and they are the people who should enforce the regulation to correct this issue; also I am told that Health Alberta is also looking into this.

    At this time Town Administration is working hard with Champion to correct this situation. I know this is not what you really want to hear, however the system doesn’t always work as fast as we wish. If I am elected Mayor this will be one of the top issues we will need to tackle a little more coercively.

  5. Submitted by David V. Pattison, Councillor Candidate

    I share your concerns on keeping our Town clean. As action the Town should advise residents of its schedule and policies for street cleaning, snow removal(including sidewalks),park maintenance and etcetera. The Town should also encourage residents and businesses to assist with keeping their areas in a clean manner. There is an “unsightly premises” bylaw and the Town should enforce compliance.There are too many instances of debris and many unlicenced vehicles stored in residential and commercial areas. There are several parks (South Glens and Notre Dame for two) where regular grass cuting and weed control needs to take place.

    As residents we can also take action to assist with keeping our Town clean. For 22 years we have lived in the Notre Dame area adjacent to the walkway and ravine system between Notre Dame and Grandin. On average we collect two bags of garbage a month of debris discarded in this “park” area. This we dispose of in our garbage bin for weekly pick-up. I know of several businesses on both 100 Avenue and 100 Street who regularly pick up debris by their businesses. I commend them for this. During this campaign I met a resident on 108 Street, west of the the Provincial Building, who uses a bobcat to clean the snow from the sidewalk along his street.

    I also share your concern with the empty commercial lots. These exist on 100 Street, 100 Avenue and elsewhere in Town. The Town should immediately complete an inventory of these lands. An economic development plan needs to be developed. Working with the land owners and commercial real estate industry, the Town should promote these commercial land opportunities. Too many of these properties have been vacant for decades and that is not acceptable.

    All vacant properties should be kept in a sightly manner. We do have a bylaw that requires this. It is simply a matter of enforcing that standard. This is the norm in other communities.

    Regarding the odor emissions from Champion Pet Foods the Town should IMMEDIATELY arrange a meeting with Champion and have the following persons in attendance: the Minister of Alberta Environment (Hon. Rob Renner),MLA Ken Kowalski, Morinville Mayor and the Town Chief Administrative Officer. The Environmental Protection Act section 116 (see below) provides the Minister of Alberta Environment (through his Director)clear authority to issue an environmental protection order.

    This issue of odors from Champion has existed for too long and I, like you, am tired of excuses. It is time for a solution. Champion Pet Foods is a large employer in our community. I have a neighbor who works there. However, I am not prepared to continue the operation of a business that cannot clean up odor emissions from its plant! During this campaign I heard comments on Champion’s odor emisions from residents in all parts of Morinville. A solution is long overdue!

    Residents who are concerned about the odors should also contact Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner’s office by phone and follow-up their concern with a letter (via e-mail or fax)to his office with a copy to the following: MLA Ken Kowalski, the Town of Morinville, Champion Pet Foods.

    Here is the relevant section of the Alberta Environmental protection Act:

    Environmental protection orders re odour
    116(1) Where the Director is of the opinion that a substance or thing is causing or has caused an offensive odour, the Director may issue an environmental protection order to the person responsible
    for the substance or thing.
    (2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of an offensive odour that results from an agricultural operation that is carried out in accordance with generally accepted practices for such an operation
    or in respect of which recommendations under Part 1 of the Agricultural Operation Practices Act indicate that the agricultural operation follows a generally accepted agricultural practice.
    (3) An environmental protection order under this section may order the person to whom it is directed to take any or all of the following measures:
    (a) investigate the situation;
    (b) take any action specified by the Director to prevent the offensive odour;
    (c) minimize or remedy the effects of the offensive odour;
    (d) monitor, measure, contain, remove, store, destroy or
    otherwise dispose of the substance or thing causing the
    offensive odour or lessen or prevent the offensive odour;
    (e) install, replace or alter any equipment or thing in order to control or eliminate the offensive odour;
    (f) construct, improve, extend or enlarge a plant, structure or thing if that is necessary to control or eliminate the offensive odour;
    (g) take any other action the Director considers to be
    necessary;
    (h) report on any matter ordered to be done in accordance with directions set out in the order.
    RSA 2000 cE-12 s116;2001 c16 s6

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