by Colin Smith
The second quarter of 2021 began well, but was darkened by the St. Jean Baptiste church fire, notes the Town of Morinville administration’s quarterly report to Council.
“With COVID-19 numbers trending down, and vaccination rates increasing, the second quarter brought hope for a bit of normalcy within the region,” stated Chief Administrative Officer Stephane Labonne in his opening message for the report, which covers April to June.
Morinville staff began making plans to offer reduced summer programs, including self-guided activities, drop-in programs and in-person events.
This followed the onset of the provincial government’s three-stage Open for Summer Plan, with Stage 1 of reopening coming into effect June 1, followed by Stage 2 on June 10.
Highlights of the quarter include the official opening of the Ray McDonald Sports Center playground in early June.
“The fully accessible playground is the first of its kind in Morinville and is a welcome addition to play structures in the community,” said the CAO.
A dark day for Morinville was how Labonne described June 30, the day that the St. Jean Baptiste Parish church burned down.
While the church was completely destroyed by the fire, it was brought under control by firefighters, with assistance from regional partners from Gibbons, Bon Accord, Legal, Sturgeon County, St. Albert and Edmonton. Nearby buildings were saved, including the former convent building, which sustained minor water and smoke damage.
The fire and RCMP criminal investigations into the fire, the largest in Morinville’s history, are continuing and it is not known when results will be released.
In total, during the second quarter Fire Services responded to 33 calls in Morinville, compared to 35 during the same period in 2020.
Crime Rates Down
Crime in Morinville was down by about 10 per cent, according to statistics in a report provided by the local RCMP detachment.
In the second quarter of 2021, there were 168 criminal code offences, down from 187 in 2020.
While there was one more crime against a person, bringing the total up from 33 to 34, property crimes dropped from 122 to 108 and other criminal code offences from 32 to 26.
The RCMP report pointed out that in this period mental health files were up by 154 per cent, from 13 to 33.
In discussion at the council meeting, Councillor Sarah Hall asked about the RCMP process for handling mental health files.
Sergeant Lou Simms replied that members are trained to investigate mental health complaints, but are not trained to deal with the psychological aspects, so other agencies are involved.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe speculated that a reduction in the number of break-and-enters might be due to more things being open and more people around, while Councillor Rebecca Balanko asked if an uptick in mischief could be the result of more people reporting.
“Yes, we are getting more people reporting, which is a good thing,” said Simms.
The quarterly report statement of operations included consolidated results for indicating a net revenue to June 30 of approximately $18.6 million.
This is $408,000 less than budgeted, due to lower sales and user charges, rental revenue, penalties and fines because of Covid-19, and the closure of the facilities in the first half of the year.
At $9.8 million, operating expenses were also under budget, to the tune of $1.38 million. The Town says the favourable variance is the result of lower than budgeted spending on salaries, wages and benefits, (down $453,000), contracted services (down $303,000), and a variety of other items.
During the second quarter, the town’s infrastructure services began initial planning and tendering for capital projects to be delivered in 2021. This included the outdoor multi-sport facility, splash park replacement, Morinville Leisure Centre digital sign, and curb extensions. Construction for most of these capital projects was scheduled to begin in the year’s third quarter.