by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
In another round of disgruntled comments, Council has decided to defer a decision on changes to photo enforcement in Morinville following escalating concerns over the recent massive spike in photo enforcement issued tickets in the last quarter.
The motion to differ was presented by Councillor Stephen Dafoe on the basis that he felt Council should see if Administration’s procedures for operating photo enforcement had the teeth Council is looking for to put some checks and balances into how the program is run in Town.
Council, having given considerable direction to Administration expects to see the proposed procedural changes in the fall, so they felt the policy itself should wait for final approval until the operational procedures come forward. Following receiving these, and tweaks incorporated from council input throughout their term, the policy will be coming back for a vote in the Fall.
Dafoe himself has been an outspoken critic of how the program currently operates. He has publicly made available a document that he compiled, explaining the issue from Council’s perspective, what has been done until this point, and alternatives in policy that Director of Corporate Operations David Schaffer has said may in some form make it into the upcoming procedures.
Dafoe was not alone in offering criticism.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein felt that it was important to make sure all of Council’s concerns about the program were incorporated and voted for the deferral in the hopes of that happening.
“It [Photo Enforcement policy] wasn’t ready the first time we passed it two years ago,” she said. “So, this time, we have to get it right.”
Mayor Lisa Holmes took issue with the operators themselves.
“We make our photo radar officers peace officers, so they are acting on behalf of the Town of Morinville, and if we had an employee that acted and got as many complaints and issues as [them], it’s embarrassing to watch videos of them being chased by tractors and it’s just constant!” Holmes said. “The level of professionalism does not seem to be there, and that’s why I feel like if this was an employee, we would be dealing with this in a different way. They are a private contractor, and they need to be listening to what we want, and finally I feel like we’re slowly getting there, and if we have to wait three and a half more months that’s fine, as long as at the end of this we are getting closer and not just sitting here.”
At one point, in heated discussion, Mayor Holmes commented, “We need to finally stand up and say [in the policy], this is where you are going to operate, not sit at Cardiff Road, with out of 40 hours a week 39 and a half spent at [high ticket areas]. So we need to find a way to do that, and if that doesn’t happen, I’m seriously going to make a motion that we suspend the program until we get the procedures back.”
While the program was not suspended, tensions are high from Council in wanting to rework the operation of the photo enforcement program in Morinville to spend less time in high volume ticket areas, among other changes geared towards tailoring the program towards public safety instead of revenue.
“In the next quarterly report, after this policy procedure has been adopted, if we see the same things happening, then I’m not going to be satisfied for what we’re asking for here,” said Councillor Gord Putnam. “So if that happens and it’s just been us talking about it and we see the same amount of tickets in the same places, and not in the necessary places, then we’ll have a problem. I think it now is clear what we want as a council.”
The policy will return to council in the fall when the operational procedures are completed by Administration.