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Coming Up: February 11

Council meets Monday night at 6:30. The most interesting agenda items:

  • Snow Removal: a delegation will be bringing this up with Council

  • Opioid Response Plan: The Community Response Task Force has created a plan. Council will be considering endorsing it, circulating it to other organisations, and asking them to consider how they can act on it.

  • Reserve Funds: Policies governing how the City utilizes its reserves are up for discussion

Following is more information and my take on agenda items.

As always, any mistakes or opinions belong to me and me alone, not to Council or City staff.

If you would like to watch the meeting or read any of its supporting material for yourself, you can do so by clicking here. The City will post the highlights of Council’s decisions here.

I also want to let you know about my next COFFEE WITH DYLAN event. It will be on Tuesday, February 12th at 7:00pm in the Ernie Radbourne Pavilion. This is an informal time open to anyone to ask questions and share thoughts they have about our community. We’ll spend about 45 minutes talking about affordable, social, and supportive housing. After that I’ll stick around to talk about anything the group wants to discuss. I hope you can come.


Delegations: Snow Removal

At the beginning of every Council meeting, the public is invited to address us on any topic. Anyone can just show up and speak. However, we always appreciate a heads up if someone is going to address Council. More information about speaking to Council can be found here.

This week, Roger Durnford has indicated that he intends to come and talk or ask questions about snow removal. I do not know anything else about this presentation. However, I welcome the conversation. My understanding is that current snow removal standards were set quickly in response to a year of very heavy snow- they weren’t created alongside formal public engagement. I’d love to see us do some work with the community to evaluate our current program.


Opioid Response Plan

In late 2017, Mayor Given invited a number of stakeholders to take part in an Opioid Response Task Force. This group has included representatives from City departments, Alberta Health Services, the RCMP, local school boards, ACT Medical, and community non-profits. It has created opportunities for information sharing and informal collaboration. It has also completed some helpful projects such as a Needle Disposal Guide and videos about local impacts and responses.

This group has also created a Community Opioid Response Plan. It provides some context to the Opioid Crisis in Grande Prairie and makes recommendations about how individuals and organisations in our community can work to address it. You can read the response plan here.

It has been recommended that Council endorse this plan and direct the Mayor to share it with other community organizations, inviting them to identify how they may contribute to its recommendations. I intend to vote in favour of this.

Worth noting: this plan is meant to be iterative. The Task Force will be revisiting and revising it. You might have ideas on how it can be improved. If so, I’d absolutely love to hear them- I’m attending the Task Force meetings and am happy to bring ideas forward at them.


Alberta Community Partnership Grant Application for Opioid Responses

The province has a Community Partnership Grant program. It provides resources for municipalities to work together to address community needs. It has been recommended that Council invite other municipalities from across Alberta to apply for a grant to work on Opioid Responses together. The primary intent of this: there are many different programs being implemented across Alberta, but little is being done to collect and share information about their implementation and effectiveness.

I intend to vote in favour of pursuing this grant. We absolutely should be dedicating resources to sharing lessons and best practices with other communities. Since doing this would benefit many municipalities, it is appropriate for some provincial resources to be accessed.


Human Resources Policies

It has been recommended that Council rescind two of its policies regarding employee Drug and Alcohol Use and Employee Health, Wellness, and Safety. These would be replaced by policies from the City Manager.

The reason for this: employee policies should be controlled by the City Manager, not by Council. It takes a lot of time and organisational processes for Council to change its policies- management can make changes more quickly and efficiently on its own. Furthermore, the Municipal Government Act is quite clear that Council should stay out of direct involvement with day-to-day operations: Council having employee policies may be overstepping its legislated mandate.

I intend to vote in favour of rescinding these policies. I take the matters they relate to very seriously, so therefore I want them to be given appropriate oversight. That is best done through the City Manager’s office.


Reserve Fund Policy

Reserve funds are an important part of municipal financial management. They allow for large, known future projects to be undertaken without a sudden tax increase. They also allow a municipality to respond to large, unexpected costs without suddenly hiking taxes or slashing programs.

On Monday, Council will be debating proposed changes to the policies governing reserve funds.

Right now , Council controls 14 different reserve funds with an individual policy for each one. The recommendation before Council is to consolidate those into a single policy with an attached schedule laying out details about each fund. Having a single policy will make reserves easier to manage and their use more transparent.

It has also been recommended that Council eliminate four reserves after transferring their balances to the Financial Stabilization Reserve. These are the Winter Stabilization, RCMP Detachment, Fire Equipment Replacement, and Neighbourhood Entrance Feature Reserves. Going forward, expenses that have been tied to these reserves would come out of the City’s regular capital budget or the Financial Stabilization Reserve. There is no intent to decrease funding amounts to any departments or projects through this change.

I do intend to support adopting the new reserve policy. However, I am contemplating moving for two changes before a final policy is voted on:

  • Adding a target minimum to the Financial Stabilization Reserve, changing the policy to require a Special Resolution (which needs a 2/3 majority vote of Council) to draw it below this minimum. This reserve is essentially the City’s emergency fund- it should only be drawn very low in dire circumstances. A potential minimum I have in mind is half a month of operational expenses (in 2019 that would be ~$7.5 million).

  • Keeping the Winter Stabilization Reserve instead of folding it into the Financial Stabilization Reserve. In my mind, the Financial Stabilization Reserve should be used to respond to unexpected circumstances. It should not be used to modulate season-to-season changes in the cost of snow removal.

Worth noting: the City also has reserve funds for the airport and library. These are governed by policies under the control of the Airport Commission and Library Board. The changes Council is debating Monday would have no impact on them.

If Council passes the policy being debated without any revisions, this is what would happen to City reserves:

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That’s what is on our agenda for Monday. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can comment below. Or, you can contact me at dbressey@cityofgp.com or 780-402-4166. I'm happy to talk online or over the phone. I'm also always willing to setup a time to meet for coffee.

I also hope to see you at the coffee gathering on February 12th.

After Council meeting, you will be able to find highlights posted by the City here.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan