UDI and Canadian Homebuilders Association Dinner: Council met with builders and developers in the region, where we were given the opportunity to get to know each other.
St. Albert Public Schools Read-In Week: This was FUN. I was invited to read stories to children at Lois Hole, Leo Nickerson, and Alex MacKenzie schools - I look forward to coming back next year!
Council Field Trip - Urban Forest Management: I joined Counsellors Hansen & McKay for a crash-course in urban forest management. We learned about the planning that goes into our municipal green spaces, the impact that construction has on the health of our forests, and planning requirements that have changed over the last few decades. Our Admin pros ROCKED the tour and were incredibly tolerant of all the layperson questions.
Council Municipal Facilities Tour - I joined most of Council on a bus tour of many of our facilities, including Fountain Park, Serves Place, Lacombe Park Lake, the site of our future pickleball courts, the Waterplay Park, and Akinsdale Arena. This was an opportunity to learn more about existing and expected project charters.
Lunch with Minister Anderson & MLA Renaud: Another great opportunity to build relationships with our provincial leaders. (And an excellent sandwich at one of our fantastic independent businesses - If you haven't been to Junto's Bistro for breakfast or lunch yet, it's worth a visit!)
Open-invite meet & greet with MLA Renaud & Minister Anderson: It was great hanging out with residents at A Boutique Gallery Bar by Gracie Jane, St. Albert's wildest karaoke-live music-tarot-art bar.
Audit Committee: This week, we agreed to continue with a non-specific focus rather than recommend a more specific audit focus to Council. Next month, we'll meet again to review a potential RFP for a 2-year general audit project.
2018 Final Tax Requirement
Due to several adjustments, administration is recommending a final tax increase of 1.6%, down from the approved 2.4%. Of note, we received $40,000 more for MSI funding than expected, and expect a $120,000 increase in natural gas franchise fee revenue (we're debating electrical franchise fees later in the meeting).
Safety Enhancement Programs ($107,845 from Safety Reserve)
Ammonia Exposure Control Plan: Ammonia is used at our skating & curling ice facilities, which poses a risk to our staff. (Three workers died in Fernie last year due to a suspected ammonia leak.) This project will continue to improve safety through the addition of eyewash stations and personal ammonia detectors, a gap analysis by a refrigeration consultant, and specialized ammonia awareness training.
Intelex Mobile Inspection Module: In 2017 as part of our Certificate of Recognition/Health & Safety Management System audit, an external auditor noted that inspections were carried out less frequently than required in our Inspection Policy, and management review was not occurring as required. This project is to add function to our existing safety management software to allow for improved recording and tracking of inspections, including the ability to record information/photos remotely, and improve workflow to ensure that corrective action is completed with regards to inspection deficiencies.
Council motion - Electrical Franchise Fees
In February, Council was given a presentation about franchise fees, which are widely used across the province by municipalities to give access to natural gas (which we already collect) and electricity services.
"A franchise fee is an amount paid to the municipality to use their infrastructure. It is basically a payment, partially in lieu of forgone taxes on property due to the use of utility corridors. The electrical distribution company bills and collects the franchise fee from customers and they would in turn send payments to the municipality." - Electric Franchise Fee Discussion Paper
Although there are a few motion options, it's likely that we'll vote on a version that asks Administration to bring back reports on the impact of "<either> a single fee introduction of 10% <or> a staged fee introduction that would foresee the initial introduction set at 5% with an annual 2.5% increment over the following two years until the maximum 10% fee rate is attained, <and> that a requisite reduction in residential and commercial property taxes be incorporated equal to the introduction cost of the selected franchise fee option."
Council Motion - Separation Distance Between Liquor Stores
This motion is to consider whether a 100m separation distance/setback should be required between liquor stores, similar to what has been proposed for cannabis retail stores. If this passes and is subsequently passed into bylaw "54% of the liquor stores (13 total) would become non-conforming... If only same-side of road separation is used... 42% (10 total) would become non- conforming." Although existing development permits would not be revoked, there are quite a few restrictions that would be placed on the building(s). Administration does not recommend supporting this change.
This is a brief high-level overview of highlights from our meeting agenda, with my personal comments sprinkled in - In no way are my opinions representative of the official direction of council or the City of St. Albert. Please let me know of any typos or errors. As always, I also encourage everyone who is able to tune in the the live-stream of the meeting (3pm here) or attend in-person (3rd floor of St. Albert Place, hang a right getting out of the elevator). You can also register to speak if you have information to present to council. Full agenda packages can be found on the stalbert.ca website.