by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent

$20,000 spent on sponsorship consultant resulted in “nothing”; Dafoe

Town Council has accepted a report for information on a $20,000 Rec Facility Sponsorship Consultant hiring that resulted in, by the description offered by Councillor Stephen Dafoe, “Nothing.”

The report came forward to Council as a result of a unanimous information request put forward by Councilor Dafoe at a previous meeting.

CAO Andrew Isbister explained that the program may have failed to generate enough interest from sponsors because it was too early in the project, and it was not clear how the final centre would look at the time that the consultant was hired.

Councilor Dafoe said “I think when we have a situation of money for nothing, the public has a right to know. In this case, they do. It’s an error that has been made, and I hope we learn from it going forward.”

Council unanimously approves new resident survey

In a unanimous decision, Council has accepted for information the 2016 Town of Morinville Resident Survey as presented by Town Director of Communications Felicity Bergman. The survey is the first one put forward by the Town in nearly half a decade, but Bergman intends the surveys to become an annual occurrence.

The surveys will be distributed at the Morinville Community Library, Town Hall, the Community Cultural Centre and online through the Town’s website. The reportedly 15-minute survey is meant to provide valuable data to the Town about which services are being used, and how satisfied residents are with Town programs generally.

Bergman was praised by Council for developing the survey, but Deputy Mayor Rob Ladouceur had questions about how willing residents may be to complete the survey in light of the ongoing Federal and Municipal census.

Town CAO Andrew Isbister ensured residents and Council that “answering these questions will be quite fun.”

Residents have the opportunity to complete the survey between May 15th and June 30th.

Council unanimously passes motion to offer any necessary support in Fort McMurray fires

Council has unanimously passed a motion put forward by Mayor Lisa Holmes to offer any necessary support (including financial support) that Town Administration deems necessary to support the province-wide state of emergency resulting from the Fort McMurray fire crisis.

The motion was put forward to make sure that any activities to support the crisis pursued by Town Administration would not require an emergency meeting of Council to convene only to vote on proposals of support put forward by Administration.

Director of Corporate Operations with the Town, David Schaffer, felt that a motion would likely not be necessary because the fires have been deemed a Provincial State of Emergency, but Councillor Dafoe and Mayor Holmes both commented that it was better to pass a motion just in case it was legislatively required. The motion passed unanimously without debate.

Council unanimously approved $250 sponsorship of Purina Walk for Dog Guides

In a unanimous vote, Council has decided to allocate $250 to the Morinville Purina Walk for Dog Guides event. The event raises money to help support dog guide programs, and is to be held throughout the Morinville trail system on May 28. The event is run by the local Lion’s Club chapter, and is happening simultaneously in more than 200 communities nationwide.

The motion was adopted unanimously after being proposed by Councillor Nicole Boutestein. There was no debate about the motion specifically, but Mayor Lisa Holmes asked Administrations to investigate what threshold of sponsorship requires Council review and approval in future sponsorship requests.

Changes to Town utilities passes Second Reading following questions by citizen

Unanimously, Council has passed Second Reading of the 2016 Water Rates Bylaw following some concerns and questions from a community member being put forward at the meeting.

The new Bylaw would no longer allow renters to take out utility accounts in their own name. The changes are intended to save the Town time and money, with the Town currently on the hook for tracking down missed payments and collections from rental accounts.

Morinville currently maintains more than 3,300 utility accounts, of which nearly 10 per cent represent residential and commercial tenant accounts. Utility write-offs on rental arrears have averaged $15,000 per year over the past three years, with an average collection rate of 15 per cent (or $2,250).

Beyond the changes to agreements themselves, the new utility bylaw also includes steps to streamline the application process for utility applications, and provisions that include more e-service and email options for ratepayers.

Morinvillian homeowner and landlord Steve Knobbe had some concerns about changes to the program and took an opportunity to ask Council and Interim Director of Financial Services Shawna Jason about the program. Among Knobbe’s concerns were when he would be informed when tenants’ accounts were in arrears and if he was now expected to collect a deposit for utilities, among other questions.

Jason assured Knobbe that as soon as a payment was missed, both the owner and the tenant would be notified, one by email and one by mail, of the owner’s choosing. Further, deposits for utilities would now be the responsibility of owners to collect, with owners having the option of raising pre-existing deposit amounts.

Further, Jason explained that owners can choose whether residents themselves be responsible for paying the bill, or the owners could add it into the resident’s rent. Also, that that all current rental utility accounts with the Town will be grandfathered in, with only new accounts following July 1st being subject to these new changes.

Third Reading of the legislation will be given at Council’s next meeting on May 24th, and Jason encouraged any residents with any questions or concerns to come get answers to them at or before that meeting.

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