Column: From the Desk of Mayor Paul Krauskopf

The recent Provincial Court ruling to stay violations tickets issued to Champion Pet Foods through a negotiated solution between Morinville and Champion was supported by Council. Council was made aware of the terms of the agreement, the legal opinion and recommendations from staff and supported the CAO in negotiating this agreement. It is important to understand that charges issued under a bylaw create a ticket, which can be challenged when a not guilty plea is submitted. It is prudent for the Town to assess each case where there is a not guilty plea and balance the goal of compliance with the costs of proceeding with a full trial. In cases that are very expensive to prosecute, if the Town can achieve compliance or an acceptable level of progress to compliance with a negotiated solution, the Town needs to consider whether a settlement is the most appropriate, fiscally responsible course of action. Council believes that the agreement with Champion for ongoing commitment to continue to reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of odour put the Town and its residents in a better position in relation to odour mitigation than any payment of fines would have. As this process evolved, the Town was prepared to go to trial if terms of compliance could not be agreed upon. I want to stress that this agreement does not in any way set a precedent or prevent the Town from future enforcement action. However, since the installation of a new oven and exhaust stack in July 2012, the Town has received fewer complaints and experienced fewer days of odour indicating Champion is making efforts towards compliance.

The prosecution of Champion under the Community Standards Bylaw was a matter before the Courts and involved a number of legal issues. When Council is discussing a matter before the Courts or hearing updates on legal advice, it holds discussions “In-Camera” as per the Municipal Government Act and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. For this reason, most of Council’s discussions about the Champion matters have been in camera. Council takes “In-Camera” seriously and follows the rules when discussing items under “Land, Labor and Legal.” There is no question that Champion discussions were in fact “Legal” and for those same reasons could not be discussed in public. Council cannot and has not made decisions “in camera” but in our “in camera” sessions we heard regular updates from Ms. Oyarzun and discussed those updates with her. She acted in the Champion matter knowing Council supported her approach and decisions. Council and Administration will continue to work with Champion to make this the best community to live, work and play.

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  1. Thank you, Mr Mayor, for clearing up this matter. As a resident who lives on the south east side of Morinville, I can atest to the fact that there are far fewer incidents where the smell from Champion is noticeable. Hopefully, others will notice the pro-active way that Morinville treats businesses and will look at setting up their companies out here! Morinville cannot grow on residential taxes alone, we must entice small business and large to make Morinville their home base.

  2. To put it bluntly; If I owned and operated Champion Pet Foods, why on earth would I make any changes from here on end? There is absolutely no incentive to do so. The message recieved was that council is satisfied that Champion has done something to lower it’s emission levels of putrid stink,even if it still exists. Why would I spend another dime to improve anything, when I know that this town will not do anything further?
    Mr. Mayor, your assertion that the town can still enforce it’s bylaw upon further violations means nothing if Champion threatens to take you to court, because council will back off. You refer to this as a settlement, is this what the residents of this town have to settle for? The answer, my friend, will be blowing in the wind. Enjoy your day.

  3. It’s appears the the current council dose not represent the best interest of the of the residents of Morinville or surrounding areas. I might be that one will remember this when the next election comes arround. Phil you are right on and Will really??? I would suggest will that you are in the minority on the smell test.

  4. I have great respect for the Mayor and many of the council members that I know personally. However, what this whole incident indicates is that our bylaws are unenforceable. Either that, the companies see no need to follow them as they can simply win by threat of legal action.

    I appreciate the time and personal effort invested by the Mayor, Council and CAO on this issue. I understand that court cases can be costly. However, as I indicated before, what was Champion fighting? That they caused the smells? That they promised to fix it and, despite their best efforts, had not yet succeeded, so they shouldn’t pay? Trying means a lot, but trying not to pollute shouldn’t make the tickets and fines go away.

    Knowing that Council can’t make a motion and vote in-camera, why was one not made out of camera and voted on?

    Finally, I would love to hear Champion’s side as to why they caused the Council so much grief and why they felt the need to not acknowledge guilt and pay the fines. Given the money they’ve spent to date, $5,400 was peanuts. In this case, I think, they didn’t want to admit guilt as that carries a lot of other potential fiscal and public relations problems. What says Champion?

  5. Phil / Brent, I agree whole heartedly. Those fines were peanuts to Champion, just like this whole issue is! As the Mayor explained, no one is guilty until proven so in a Court of Law! The Peace Officers can hand out ALL the tickets they want, but it is up to the Courts to decide guilt. Do you want the Town to spend thousands of dollars (your tax money) on lawyers and court costs only to have Champion be found not guilty? Having bad smells now and then has become way overblown. Try channeling your discontent at the Provincial Government towards the overpass at Cardiff Corners where people are being KILLED. Remember way back, Morinville begged Champion to move here, long before the South Glens community was even thought of, and it was the start of a campaign to lure businesses to Morinville. Try living in Edson or Hinton and demanding that the mills be shut down because of the smell! You’d be run out of town!!

  6. In a word Will, yes. I expect the council to follow through on it’s by-laws. If you can’t or won’t, then toss them out. They’re useless. You try living in Hinton, et al. I don’t want to. What you are suggesting is that people should pick another fight, ala Cardiff Road. Stick to the topic Will. Hopscotching around issues does not fix anything, I don’t look for apples when I’m picking peaches.

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