by Tristan Turner

Council tackled borrowing, the upcoming municipal census, and city status at their Feb. 9 meeting.

Dafoe gets support for plebiscite on rec borrowing

In a 5-2 vote, Council has moved to trigger a public plebiscite to be held on borrowing for the new arena should the Town borrow more than they are capable of paying back in five years. The motion was moved by Dafoe, who noted his support for hearing the public’s opinion about borrowing before moving ahead with the facility at a price that would require borrowing for more than five years. The cost of the plebiscite is estimated by Town administration to cost around $30,000, with estimations from the previous photo radar plebiscite.

The motion was not supported by Mayor Lisa Holmes and Councillor Barry Turner, who both noted that they support the concept of holding a plebiscite for this purpose, but disagreed with the requirement of it being over five years of borrowing triggering the plebiscite.

Councillor Turner noted that “you could pay back $10,000 over one year, or 30 years,” thinking it would be better to use a percentage of the Town’s borrowing limit as a better metric. Councillor Turner conceded that the Town probably would pay back a debenture amount over normal timelines and that this would not be a problem, but still noted his preference for a different plebiscite trigger than the loan payback period.

Mayor Holmes commented that the plebiscite could be conceived of it being a plebiscite on the facility itself, rather than on the borrowing amount as she thought it should be and that the motion should be changed to make that clearer.

Passing this motion does not guarantee that there will be a plebiscite, which will only happen if the amount the Town borrows for the arena will be paid back in over five years. Plebiscites are not legally binding in Alberta, but Councillor Dafoe commented that he believed that Council should listen to the wishes of Morinvillians in their response to the question of Town infrastructure borrowing.

Town Interim CAO Andrew Isbister informed Council that the plebiscite would only delay the project between five to six weeks if one end up being required.

Council hears 4th quarter report

Town quickly approved their 4th quarter report for 2015 after hearing from Town administration and RCMP Staff Sergeant Riz Suleman about the state of Town services and finances in the final quarter of 2015. The report includes crime, traffic and financial stats, none of which offered many surprises.

Staff Sergeant Suleman discussed crime rates as being overall “very good news” and that they continue their slight overall decline that the department has been experiencing in recent years. Suleman did comment on the need for more resources at their detachment, however, where they are waiting to fill two “hard vacancies” of officers who have left and whose jobs are no longer being fulfilled. This was in relation to the Morinville RCMP’s closing of the general investigations unit, something that was temporarily done to relocate needed resources elsewhere. Suleman was excited to share that another officer was coming to join the service, and that he will be arriving shortly to Morinville.

Traffic enforcement was also very brief, with Councillor Dafoe commenting once again on how he felt that Cardiff Corner could be seen “as a cash cow” for the Town. He said he would be okay with increasing the speed limit to 60 on that road if possible, unless Administration can come back to Council for justification on why that road is unsafe. Council is set to review the Photo Enforcement Policy this spring, having previously motioned to review it after one year.

The full 4th quarter report is available for residents to review on the Town’s website.

Council approves Town 2016 census; Town may choose to become city … or go smaller

In a unanimous decision, Council has moved to conduct a municipal census at the cost of $8,700 that may make the Town eligible for over $100,000 in new federal and provincial grants, according to Legislative Officer Jennifer Maskoske.

The motion passed unanimously. The census will run Apr. 1 to May 2 online, and May 3 to June 30. Maskoske acknowledged that a federal census will be happening concurrently with the Town’s, but informed the public that this information usually takes years before its publicly shared, and the Town can get the information back from a census they conduct themselves much more rapidly, increasing per capita grant funding. She was apologetic to residents who may get a couple knocks on their door from census workers in the spring.

Morinville’s current population is 9,402 and it is expected the upcoming census could see Morinville hit or come close to 10,000.

Anticipating city status numbers and community discussions that would follow, Councillor Stephen Dafoe made an information request to have Administration come back to Council with information on going the other way by becoming a specialized municipality.

Dafoe argued that while city status is the natural topic that will be on resident’s mind, he wanted to see information on what would be involved in becoming a specialized municipality. Given the community’s growth and pressure to build infrastructure used by Morinville and County residents, a specialized municipality could level the field.

Council voted unanimously in asking the administration to come back in the fall with positives and negatives of both becoming a specialized municipality and a city, so the Town has that information ready for when a discussion is held in the future.

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