by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
Council passes slew of utility bylaws
Council has unanimously passed three new utility bylaws that will see a very slight increase to resident’s bills. Water, Utility, and Sewer rates were unchanged from last year’s rates, but waste pickup saw an increase of about $2 per month.
Second and Third Reading of each of the corresponding bylaws passed quickly and without questions or comment, except for the waste bylaw, where Deputy Mayor Brennan Fitzgerald inquired to the administration regarding the potential for the Town to recycle plastic bags. A new report on the possibility of implementing this and associated costs will be coming in January, and Council could renegotiate their contract with their waste service provider in April, potentially allowing them to add bag recycling for an additional charge to residents.
Besides this small rate change, the bylaws remained relatively unchanged from previous years.
New Town reserve policy put in place
The Town has a new reserve policy after receiving positive comments and unanimous support from Council. The policy consolidates reserves and renames a Traffic Safety Committee reserve into a general Safety Initiative Reserve, which will utilize photo radar revenue for community safety projects.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe commented in support of the motion, saying that he received praise from a private citizen – “one of our greatest critics” – on the clarity of the policy.
Councillor Gord Putnam commented that this is the first time he has had clear information on the state of municipal reserves, and he was satisfied with the policy.
This new policy will mean that the Office Equipment Reserve and the Community Cultural Centre Reserve will be consolidated into the Town’s General Operating Reserve. Deputy Mayor Brennan Fitzgerald asked Shawna Jason, Director of Corporate and Financial Services, if this change will mean that there will be a decrease in transparency on office supply spending. Jason assured Council that spending will remain transparent and will be tracked and reported similarly as before.
The change passed unanimously after only a few comments from Council.
Morinville News Advertising Contract approved as per MGA requirements
Town Council has given the green light to allocate a contract up to $23,520 with the Morinville News to provide print and digital advertising for the Town of Morinville in 2017. This contract includes a full page ad in each print edition, which is being reduced from 50 issues a year, down to about 28 after new plans to switch to a bi-weekly model.
Council must approve the contract – even though it was already included in the 2017 budget – because of requirements in the Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA) requiring budget items that relate to a direct pecuniary interest to a member of Council. The Morinville News is owned and published by Councillor Stephen Dafoe, who declared a pecuniary interest in the matter and was absent for the vote at the meeting.
Councillor Barry Turner also declared a pecuniary interest, as his son Tristan Turner (the writer of this story) is a contracted writer for the paper, covering Council.
The motion rapidly passed with only a couple clarifying questions. Councillor Boutestein and Mayor Holmes asked administration if the dollar amount this year reflects the additional expense of election advertising for the 2017 Municipal election. Felicity Berman, Corporate Communications employee with the Town, confirmed that this figure did not include election funding, and offered that the amount could be “increased by $3,000-$5,000” to incorporate 2017 municipal election advertising funding as well.
Ultimately, the increase was not passed after some confusion amongst Administration and Council about whether election advertising exists within the normal Town advertising budget or an election-specific budget. The MGA may require Council to review and approve additional Morinville News advertising spending during the 2017 election.