by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent

Few people attended Morinville’s Budget 2017 Open House on November 2.

Residents had the opportunity to see presentations made by the Town’s Administration during the afternoon that day; however, according to the Town’s Corporate Communications Officer, Felicity Bergman, only two people attended.

Later on in the evening, about ten residents wandered around upstairs at Town Hall, perusing information posted to boards and talking to Councillors (and some Administrators) about their concerns. The room was quietly abuzz, with words like “rec centre” and “roads” becoming audible at times.

Starting at 7:30 p.m., public presentations were also allowed; one community group, the Morinville Art Club, registered an opinion with Council.

Before the event, the Town had been hopeful people would come out and give some feedback on how tax dollars should be used in 2017.

In an interview on Nov. 1, Morinville’s CAO, Andy Isbister, said the Open House is meant to collect input but also, will give residents a better understanding of the budget in general.

“These budget discussions are very important to Councillors and Administration. Should cuts have to be made, Council [will then have] an idea of where these cuts should be made. It also assists Administration in the planning for future years,” he said.

Councillors will take the information collected during the Nov. 2 Open House and will combine it with input gathered from other sources to help them make their final decisions on potential amendments to the budget and how they will vote come second and third reading of its bylaw.

Morinville is also currently collecting budget feedback via an online survey (available on the Town’s website). Shawna Jason, the Town’s Director of Corporate and Financial Services, said in a statement to the Morinville News, residents have submitted 23 surveys to date.

“Council, along with the public will receive a written summary of [those] results. These reports will be coming to Council on November 8,” said Jason, “Council and Administration will receive the verbatim comments.”

Jason also clarified that all written feedback the Town receives regarding the budget would be compiled and analyzed by the Town’s Administration first. The information is then provided to Councillors in its entirety for consideration.

The Open House and online survey are two ways to give feedback to Council. There are, of course, other ways to be heard.

“We actually hear from people all over the place,” remarked Morinville’s Mayor, Lisa Holmes, in an interview. Using social media to share opinions is a big one, she said, as well as emails and people doing it the old fashion way—having a face-to-face conversation.

“The other day I was grocery shopping and one of the cashiers talked to me about a road that needs to be fixed,” noted Holmes. “It’s so important to get feedback from people because if we don’t, we have to make decisions based on what we think people want. It’s really great to hear from the public.”

In terms of what she is hearing, Holmes said residents have a lot to say about parks and rec in particular this year.

“Not just the rec centre but outside it as well, to local neighbourhood needs like playgrounds, dog parks, and green spaces…South Glens also has a real need for public infrastructure. It’s time that we start looking at that.”

With this Budget being the current council’s final Budget before the next election, the Mayor said there are a few essential items she’d like to see finalized.

“We’ve made changes to the Budget process for the last three years, and I want to make sure we set a really good process for the next council. I also want to see the Rec Centre have a really strong foundation so that it doesn’t become an election issue. I think it needs to be decided before it so that the path is set and the next council can have conversations about other issues regarding the Town.”

In 2015, approximately 50 people attended the Town’s Budget Open House.

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