Ask TPR Vol.2

Ask TPR Vol. 2

May 15, 2018

This is the second post in an ongoing series we’re calling ‘Ask TPR’ where frequently asked questions from residents are answered publicly. If you have a question about Town operations please use the form at the bottom of the page.

Why are there missing minutes from the March 17 Special Council? 

There aren’t any missing minutes. The minutes of the March 17 Special Council Meeting are available here they were uploaded on April 5, 2018.

Under Section 194 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), chapter M-26 of the Revised Statutes of Alberta 2000, a Special Council Meeting can be called with less than 24-hours notice, if all the councillors agree, and sign a declaration to that effect.

That procedure was followed when a special meeting was called in March. This meeting was held to decide on a response to a legal decision and was time sensitive.

Why are In Camera items listed the way they are? Why isn’t there more detail?

In Camera items are strictly regulated by Alberta Municipal Affairs including what items can be In Camera and how those items are presented on Council Agendas. Councillors are also bound by law not to disclose In Camera discussions until the matters become public. If Council wants to make a motion following an In Camera discussion, then they have to come out of camera to do so. Those motions are recorded in the Council Minutes and are publicly available.

As part of our work to bring the Town into compliance with the 2014 Municipal Inspection Report we are in frequent contact with Municipal Affairs. When new guidelines on this topic came out in 2017, we conferred with Municipal Affairs regarding our procedure on how we record In Camera items on Council Agendas and in the Minutes. We improved our recording of In Camera items in the minutes by ensuring agendas clearly include details such as which FOIP section applies and Municipal Affairs advised that we are in full compliance with the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

As a general rule, In Camera items fall into one of three categories: (1) land – to prevent individuals from obtaining insider information and speculating on land and real estate sales; (2) legal – to protect solicitor-client privilege; and (3) labour – to provide employees with the protection they are entitled to under Provincial and Federal legislation.

Why was the cheque register removed from Town Council Agendas?

Throughout 2017, Town of Peace River staff worked to bring resolution to the recommendations set out in the 2014 Municipal Inspection Report. To improve our practices we consulted not only our own inspection report we also looked through the inspection reports completed in other communities.

Five different inspection reports all said the same thing; cheque registers should not go to Council. The expenses contained within the register should have already been approved via the operating and capital budget. To ensure budgetary spending is on track, the Town of Peace River decided to bring variance reports to Council every other month, following the approval of the Operating and Capital Budget.  These reports outline where the organization is at with regards to spending, compared to what the approved budget states. Any variance must be explained to Council at that time.

The new practice regarding the Cheque Register began with the start of this term of the current Council.

Why do I have to submit FOIP requests?

Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection or Privacy (FOIP) Act applies to all publicly funded organizations within Alberta. It provides a mechanism for citizens to request information not typically made public.

Initial FOIP applications are made by filling out the application form then submitting that along with the $25 fee. The Town must respond to the FOIP request within 30 days. FOIP requests that are broad or general, or that request large volumes of documents may be subject to additional fees, such as staff search and redaction time and printing costs. Under the legislation, we are allowed to recoup some of our costs as some simple requests can results in many hours of search time. Additionally, when information is released, sometimes components are redacted. The main reason information is redacted is to protect personal information related to a third party.

Additionally, FOIP does not apply to information that will be released to the public. For example, audited financial statements do not need to be requested by FOIP, once they are approved they are put on our website.

More detailed information on the FOIP process is available on the Province of Alberta’s website.

How much has the Town budgeted for legal expenses?

In our 2018 Approved Operating Budget, $167,500 is budgeted for legal expenses, to date we have spent $61,662.91.

It is important to note that those legal expenses include all costs we might incur; this includes legal consultation for Planning or Development issues (such as Cannabis Legalization), development agreements, human resource assistance, Policy and Bylaw development, contract negotiations, union-related matters, along with potential court proceedings. It is normal to receive legal advice or opinions on these matters.

The 2018 budgeted amount is a reduction of almost $25,000 compared to that of 2017 and we are currently on track to spend less than the budgeted amount for this year.

Why are you appealing the decision regarding the Highland Helicopter Lease at the Peace River Regional Airport?

In the ruling regarding the  Highland Helicopters Lease, we disagree strongly with the decision of the Justice in ruling that the Town was unreasonable when we relied on the advice of our lawyers. It is our position that this ruling is contrary to the current law as stated by the Supreme Court of Canada, which clearly states that relying on the advice of lawyers is acceptable.

We frequently seek legal opinions when developing new Policies, Bylaws or amending pre-existing ones. We also seek legal advice when legislative changes at the Provincial or Federal level are likely to impact our operations. That advice frequently forms the basis of our Policies and Bylaws.

As a result, we believe it is reasonable that we take the advice of our lawyers and that is why we are appealing. It should be noted that in appealing the decision, we did not ask for a stay. Had we asked for a stay and had that stay been granted no development would be able to take place on site during the Appeal. However, as things are now, we can allow improvements and development to take place on the lease, such as the construction of a hangar, provided the proper permits are obtained.

Did the Airport add security cameras? What was the cost?

Yes.

The Town of Peace River purchased six cameras and a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for $500. These cameras were installed facing the airside of the airport providing video coverage of all airside areas.

The Peace River Regional Airport is a secure location and security cameras are a part of that security. Additionally, because they are networked they improve after hours service. For example, on-call workers can monitor the runway in the event of a snowfall to see if it has impacted the airport.

This follows a trend over the last year as the Town has been using security cameras at multiple locations to improve safety and limit liability.

Which streets in Peace River are maintained by Alberta Transportation?

Alberta Transportation is required to provide snow removal, road maintenance and repair on the following roads in the Town of Peace River:

  • Highway 744, including Main Street and the Traffic Circle,
  • Highway 2 including all the on and off ramps;
  • Highway 684, Shaftesbury Trail.

The roads are also marked on the map below.

The Town of Peace River works closely with Alberta Transportation to ensure maintenance programs are current and up-to-date. From time to time, and with permission from Alberta Transportation, the Town will occasionally do maintenance on those roads. When that happens Alberta Transportation is billed for the work.

To report issues along these roads please contact Alberta Transportation directly at (780) 624-6280.

Does the Town spray noxious weeds?

No, we do not spray noxious weeds.

Noxious weeds on public property are handled by our parks workers who pull them out of the ground by hand. Those weeds are then burned. This is the most effective and least harmful way to manage noxious weeds.

Weeding is done throughout the spring, summer, and fall. While we remove weeds as we find them we also rely on reporting from the public. If you’re concerned there might be noxious weeds on public property please call Community Services at (780) 624-1000.

Noxious weeds on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.

Additionally, dandelions are no longer classified as noxious weeds and therefore we don’t use Town resources to control them.

Follow Up Questions

We will be collecting any follow-up questions and will endeavour to answer as many as possible in a subsequent update.

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Ask TPR Vol. 1