By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Council Chambers were the venue for a series of workshops and sessions Friday and Saturday that sought to get a grip on where Morinville is presently and where it wants to be in the year 2035, a quarter of a century down the road.
The Town of Morinville and Ottawa-based Stratos Inc. teamed up to gather public feedback on the current stage of Morinville’s Municipal Sustainability Plan (MSP), a document that will guide current and future councils in making sure the community stays on track with where its residents believe it should go. The plan looks at several pillars essential to a balanced and workable community: governance, economic, cultural, social, environmental and infrastructure.
“The Municipal Sustainability Plan is really about our 25-year vision, our long term vision for the community,” Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer Edie Doepker told participants in Friday morning’s session. “What we’re doing is creating this picture of where we want to be as a community 25 years from now so that we can start backing up and doing the shorter term planning that will get us there.”
Friday’s sessions involved participants looking at the 25-year goals and targets laid out in the plan thus far, offering opinion on their soundness and suggesting methods and strategies to achieve those objectives they found reasonable. Saturday’s workshops consisted of in-depth discussions on each of the sustainability pillars. Participants were given the opportunity to sit in on the discussion they were most passionate, concerned or knowledge about, offering their comments, suggestions and criticisms of the work that has been done up to this point. This input included thoughts on the fundamental ideas themselves, feasibility of the proposed goals and targets and even the words used in the document to explain the targets and goals.
One person who took part in the Friday and Saturday workshop is Morinville resident Jim O’Brien, who said curiosity brought him to the sessions Friday morning, but interest brought him back for a full day Saturday.
“I found it to be extremely interesting,” O’Brien said, noting he found Saturday’s morning session on governance particularly interesting because of his perception the governance pillar is the most important. “The governance thing is like the centre pole in a big top. Without it, and without it being stable, all the other pillars – they’re just useless. You’ve got to have the big one first.”
O’Brien said he was disappointed by the low public turnout. Nineteen people participated in Saturday’s sessions, eight of whom were consultants, councillors or Town of Morinville employees.
“I personally tend to lean towards the responsibilities of citizenship as opposed to the rights of being able to vote,” he said, noting he felt perhaps location contributed to the low turnout. “People tend not to come here [to the Town offices] because it’s pretty intimidating at times.”
Although pleased to have participated, O’Brien said he did have some concerns as to whether or not the input the consultants received from the public during the weekend sessions would make it into the final document. “Even though it might mean a rethink of a few fundamental things that they’ve got on their pieces of paper there, maybe they have to do that to get it right to begin with.”
Stratos Inc. consultant Chris Lindberg said the information received over the weekend will play an important role in the continued evolution of the document.
Lindberg explained the development of Morinville’s MSP has been an iterative process. The work done over the weekend will form a piece of that process that began in the fall or 2009 and has continued to the present stage of the plan’s development.
“We’ve developed some draft goals, some proposed goals and some proposed indicators and actions that might relate to those,” Lindberg said. “What we’re looking at from here [the sessions] is community reaction and validation as to whether or not those goals go in the right place or if there’s any gaps in them.”
Lindberg said the public response to the goals that have been laid out for the MSP have been largely positive and that the feedback will be used with the previous data and work to create a draft MSP that will be brought before the public once again.
The document will be refined and finalized between now and mid-January when it will be open for public review until early February. It is anticipated Morinville’s MSP will be finalized Feb. 22 during a regular meeting of Morinville Town Council.