Morinville Council briefs

by Tristan Turner

Council held their second regular meeting of the month Oct. 27. Here are some briefs from that meeting. Absent were Councillor Rob Ladouceur and Mayor Lisa Holmes.

3rd quarter report receives grumbles from Coun. Dafoe

After a very rapid presentation from Administration following complaints from Councillor Stephen Dafoe on the length of Administive presentations, Council asked only a handful of questions before accepting the third quarter report as information.

Dafoe repeated these comments for other presentations from Administration that evening commenting, “I like to think Council comes prepared [having read their agenda package],” and that he believed more time should be spent at Council meetings on actual discussion and debate. All data from the third quarter report was contained in the agenda package Council (and the public) receives a few days before Council meetings.

Some highlights from the third quarter report include a nearly $1 million savings on the reservoir expansion project, something that CFO Andrew Isbister is proud of, considering similar projects in the region completed recently were significantly over budget.

This report included a different breakdown on data from the two speed education signs on 100 Avenue. The report now shows the difference between speeders and those who would have received tickets. Of the 16.69 per cent speeding on 100 Avenue in the downtown core, less than 2 per cent were travelling fast enough to warrant a ticket.

Also new to the quarterly report are statistics from the RCMP, something that Council had requested in previous reports.

Crime rates continue five-year decline, despite town growth, RCMP says

Morinville RCMP Staff Sergeant Riz Suleman gave a report to Council as part of their regular policy to keep Council abreast of crime and enforcement activity in the town. The news from Suleman was almost entirely positive, citing continuing drops in crime rates in almost all areas, despite the town’s rapidly growing population. One major decline was in assaults, down from 94 in 2014 to 53 in 2015. All statistics were from the period of January to September of each year.

There were some increases in smaller categories, such as fraud, but as Suleman points out, with such small crime numbers, variance of only a few extra instances, can wildly skew the stats when dealing with such small numbers.
However, not all is well at the local RCMP station. With a large amount of recent staff leaving, including a few staff transferring and a suspension, the Morinville dispatch is short at least four regular members. Suleman noted this will “be a challenge” going forward, but that a couple of new recruits, and some potential efficiencies found in areas of administration may help the staff cope in spite of a reduced head count.

Suleman felt the reducing crime rates were due to frequent patrols and citizens “being more aware” and preventing themselves from getting in dangerous situations.

Citizens on Patrol receive Town funding for training

The one beneficiary of a Community Grants last quarter was the Morinville Citizens on Patrol, who received $1,492.50 for a Volunteer Training Workshop. No applicants applied for FCSS fundings.

Council had previously voted yes or no to all grant applications, but turned the decision making over to community services and FCSS staff over the past year, a situation that has left the annual $20,000 budget with about $12,000 heading into the final quarter.

Councillor Dafoe jokingly quipped Council was wise to make grant applications an Administrative responsibility as they “saved us a lot of money.”

Council opens up Animal Control Bylaw to public hearing

Council gave a unanimous first reading to changes to the Town’s Animal Control Bylaw, but will hold a public hearing prior to second and third reading despite not being required to do so.

As presented at first reading, the Bylaw would remove roaming cats from Bylaw enforcement except roaming cats that are licensed, something the Bylaw adds on a voluntary basis.

Other changes to the Bylaw are rules for the Town’s Dog Park and the implementation of a leash law for dogs.
But the biggest change is inclusion of exception permits that may allow for chicken coops in backyards.

Councillor Dafoe motioned to add a public hearing, citing what he saw as changes to cat enforcement that were “kind of weird,” and the need to let the public have their say if the revised Bylaw would create a situation to permit chickens in people’s backyards.

Councillor Brennan FitzGerald was the first to voice his support for Dafoe’s motion, citing the need for transparency and public input.

Dafoe’s motion passed unanimously and the date for the public hearing will be duly advertised prior to second and potential third reading.

Members of the public can read the text of the bylaw in full on the Town’s website.