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Coming Up: March 26 Council Meeting

Our next Council meeting is Monday night. Following is what we will be discussing. Highlights include some interesting delegations, third reading to bylaw amendments surrounding Urban Hens, and regional transit.

As always, all opinions or mistakes expressed here belong to me and me alone. 


Delegations

My favourite part of Council meetings is often the delegation component. This is an opportunity for anyone who wishes to address Council to do so. This week, three delegations have expressed their intention to present (delegations giving notice is appreciated but not required):

  • Our new fire chief, Preben Bossen
  • Spinal Cord Injury Alberta, informing Council about the Chair Leaders Enabling Access program. This is an opportunity for Council and other community members to spend a day in a wheelchair getting a small glimpse into accessibility challenges around Grande Prairie. I hope my colleagues accept this invitation!
  • A delegation asking us to consider implementing a single-use bag ban in Grande Prairie stores

Alberta Bilingual Municipalities Association (ABMA) Appointment

Last Council Meeting we voted to join the ABMA. This requires us to appoint a Councillor to take part in its meetings. We’ll be voting on a recommendation made by Mayor Given (I do not know who he will recommend). There is more information about the ABMA in my post from our last meeting- click here to read it.


Urban Hens

We will be concluding (for now) our discussion on Urban Hens when we have a third reading for proposed Animals and Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw amendments.

I still support allowing a pilot project. You can see my full reasoning in last meeting's post (click here). The very short version:

To me, this issue revolves around property rights. Government should never limit what people do on their own property unless it creates a safety hazard or a significant nuisance for neighbours. I haven’t seen any evidence that 4 hens in an enclosed coop within a fenced yard will cause any safety issues. I also am not convinced that they are likely to be a significant nuisance to neighours: many other activities we allow (such as owning cats and dogs) bring a much greater risk of disturbance.


Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework Report

The province wishes to see increased collaboration between municipalities. Its hope is that we will be able to deliver better and more efficient services by working together. I’m excited for this process- we need to work better as a region.

To encourage collaboration, the province is requiring municipalities to sign Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks by March 31, 2020. These are agreements that cover how municipalities will work together on land use planning, transportation, water/wastewater, solid waste, emergency services, recreation, and any other services which benefit residents in more than one municipality. If municipalities cannot come to agreement, they will be required to go through an arbitration process.

The province is requiring that the City sign an ICF with the County. We also are allowed to enter into ICFs with other municipalities. We are partnering with Sexsmith, Wembley, and Horse Lake First Nation to explore the potential of coming up with regional agreements.

The first step of our ICF process is completed: we have an inventory about what services are being offered and how they are being delivered in our region. On Monday, Council will be receiving a report about this inventory process. You can read the full report by clicking here. Below is a diagram from it which outlines existing service connections.

When I read this report, I was struck by how much collaboration is already happening in our region. At the same time, I see a lot of room for working closer together. I’m excited to see us have more conversations with our municipal neighours to determine how to do more with one another.


Regional Transit

The province has a pilot program to encourage regional transit service. If we qualify, this program will fund two years of the operating costs for running transit routes between the City and Clairmont, Sexsmith, Wembley, Beaverlodge, and Hythe. The municipalities involved will need to provide the buses and take over operating costs after two years. More details can be found in this CBC article.

Council will be voting on whether or not we support applying for this funding. There is no financial implications for application. If our application is successful, we would need to flesh out service agreements with our regional neighbours- any budget implications would be a large part of the conversation then. However, I expect they will be negligible: administration does not anticipate we will have to buy additional buses, and the City will be reimbursed through operating funds for the depreciation/wear/tear on any of its vehicles which get use.

While I’ll be taking a close look at the details of any program we implement, this is a concept which I wholeheartedly support. Our community and economy does not stop at City limits. Making it possible for people in smaller communities without vehicles to access the City for appointments and social commitments is the right thing to do. And allowing people in other communities to work and spend in the City is good for our businesses. Additionally, ICFs and regional collaboration are the biggest projects before Council. Creating a successful partnership on transit will help pave the way for the successful negotiations of other services.


Evergreen Park Transit Service

Evergreen Park has asked the City to provide transit service to its biggest events. Administration has recommended that we test this out during the Stompede. Under this pilot project, a City bus would go between Evergreen Park and downtown. The approximate hard costs for this are $2500.

I support this pilot project. It makes sense to have transit go to major events at Evergreen Park. It will ensure all City residents can access community events, many other residents will enjoy taking a bus rather than parking at Evergreen Park, and it will enhance safety on our roads. It will also help positive events at Evergreen Park grow their revenue by attracting more visitors.

I’ve had a few people say something along the lines of “I approve of this service but don’t know why the City is paying for it.”

The financial model which makes the most sense to me is to have riders pay for this service. However, provincial laws do not allow us to do that. To run transit services outside of City limits, we need something called an Operating Authority Certificate (OAC)- we don’t have one currently, and obtaining one is takes a long time and is expensive. Since we can’t run a transit route to Evergreen Park, whatever we do needs to meet the province's definition of a charter service. Under this definition, we cannot charge individual passengers for their ride.

If passengers can’t pay, who should pay for this? I am supportive of the City paying for the pilot project: finding other funding could take too much time to have this in place for the Stompede. Additionally, the Stompede is an event we already support: adding a one time gift-in-kind to our support is ok by me. 

That being said, if this pilot project is successful, I do not support the City completely financing all future services to Evergreen Park. My first preference would be to obtain an OAC and pass costs onto riders. If this isn’t feasible, we need to work with Evergreen Park, event organizers, and the County to identify other funding sources. I might be supportive of the the City contributing towards future transit services to Evergreen Park. But I will not support us being the sole funder.


Downtown Business Improvement Area Taxes

In 1984, the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) was formed. Businesses within this zone pay a special tax that funds the promotion of our downtown. This budget is set and administered by the Downtown Association, but collected by the City.

Council will be voting on whether or not to approve the 2018 Downtown Association budget of $356,597 and on tax bylaws to allow for its collection. I currently intend to support this budget and the associated tax bylaws.


Construction Tenders

Council will be voting on whether or not to approve three construction contracts. They are:

  • $3,125,091.74 exclusive of GST to Wapiti Gravel Suppliers for Phase 1 of 2018’s Road Rehabilitation and Overlay
  • $734,327.07 exclusive of GST to Reco Construction for our Storm Sewer Rehabilitation program
  • $12,015,380.98 exclusive of GST to Wapiti Gravel Suppliers for Phase 3 of our downtown rehabilitation. 

All of these amounts fall into previously approved capital budgets. I intend to vote in support of awarding all three contracts.

To see more information, you can read the Infrastructure and Protective Services committee agenda by clicking here. It includes maps of roads receiving attention in phase 1 of the Road Rehabilitation and Overlay program (there will be additional phases in 2018)


That is what is on the agenda for Monday. I welcome any questions you might have. I also approach our meetings with an open mind, so I appreciate hearing any comments you might have.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

-Dylan