Motion to give St. Jean Baptiste Parish $20,000 from Town for cemetery fails

by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent

Following multiple split votes from Council, the Town will not be immediately handing over $20,000 to the Morinville St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Parish for the revitalization of Morinville’s only public cemetery operated by the Parish.

Despite the failure of the motion, the project will be coming back as a consideration for councillors in the 2017 budget process. Many councillors who voted against the motion have said that they will be supporting it during that process.

The proposal by the Church was for a $66,500 project, including new fencing, landscaping, gates, benches, and lighting, with a $9,000 ‘contingency’ line item included. The Church was not looking for the Town to cover the entire bill; however, they were looking to split the bill evenly between the Parish’s own fundraising, Sturgeon County, and the Town.

This project was needed, according to a recent presentation to Council by Parishioners because the site recently saw the removal of some aging and diseased trees and has not gone undergone renewal in many years, with aging chain link fencing around the property.

The process that Council took to arrive at this decision involved an original motion made by Councillor Barry Turner to fund the project out of this year’s budget at $20,000 or one-third of the total cost of the program budget (whichever was lower). The motion directed the administration to work with the parish to get multiple quotes for expenses and potentially provide cost saving with in-kind donations where possible, with the goal of reducing costs for the project.

Following this motion, Councillor Nicole Boutestein made another motion to differ a vote on Turner’s motion until the next meeting to allow the Parish to come forward with more information on the projects and additional quotes to satisfy Council’s questions on the project.

That motion narrowly failed, with Councillor Dafoe, Boutestein and Mayor Holmes voting for deferral, the rest voting against.

The vote on Turner’s original motion to fund the project was also split 3-4 as well with Councillors Turner, Putnam and Ladouceur voting in favour of funding the project, and the remainder voting against, thus defeating the motion. Those on Council who voted against the motion made it clear that their intent in voting against the motion was because not enough information was available to make a decision or that funding the project should be debated during the upcoming budget process.

Turner felt that the project was financially worth the investment from the Town and would save money long term in comparison to a community cemetery, and was confident administration would work out all the details. “I’m confident [with this motion] that administration will dot all their ‘Is and cross all their Ts… and I’m [making this motion] to preserve the partnership between the Town and [the Church on the cemetery.”

Mayor Holmes noted that this motion was awkward and wanted to make it clear that she supported the project; she just felt that it should be accomplished through next year’s budgeting process with more information from the Parish before taxpayer dollars are committed.

Councillor Putnam, on the other hand, brought up the point that Council has not had a problem utilizing “ad hoc budgeting” in the past, noting recent funding of the library as an example.

The Church is also looking for the Town to offer a new annual budget item to support maintenance costs on the site, including landscaping, though they were not forthcoming with an amount. This request was not discussed at this meeting of Council but may come forward during the 2017 budget process.

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