Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As the turkey roasts to golden perfection, perhaps you have a moment to read about Tuesday’s council meeting ...
COUNCIL ON TUESDAY
First, a reminder that council moves to Tuesday this week, because of the holiday Monday. The meeting will be at 2 pm in council chambers, and – as always – you are very welcome to attend. There are two opportunities in each meeting for members of the public to ask questions about items on the day’s agenda. You can see the whole agenda package at this link:
Here are a few highlights:
Report on Library Benchmarks
You can see how the Banff Public Library’s usage, collection size, and cost compares to others in the province by taking a look at the detailed report from the library, starting on page 3 of the package. Lots of good news here: our library is free to users, we fund our library by more per capita than the average community in Alberta, we have 2.5 times the visits per capita of the average community, we have a large library collection for our size, and our library gets excellent reviews from its users.
Skateboards, 11 pm – 7 am
The bylaw amendment is coming back to council for second and third reading. This amendment would lift the present ban on skateboard use between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. As you’ll recall, I asked council to wait until this meeting for final consideration, in order to give people on the other side of the question a chance to comment. The town has received only three requests to keep the ban in place, along with over a dozen requests to lift it. It therefore appears to me that the concern about noise is not as widespread as I had thought. With all that in mind, I’m feeling inclined to vote to lift the ban – although, of course, I’ll listen to any additional comments at Council on Tuesday. I will be asking council, however, to place a mark in the council calendar for this to come back for a follow-up report a year from now, just to see what the consequences of changing the bylaw have been at that point.
By the way, an interesting side effect of this whole conversation has been reading people’s comments about what they believe cyclists are and aren’t required to do at night. Just to help clear this up, I will mention that the Alberta Highway Traffic Safety Act requires cyclists travelling at night to have a white light at the front, a red light at the rear, and reflectors visible from the sides. Fines are listed for those not complying.
Water and sewer rates
Council is being asked to phase in water and sewer rate increases over the next 20 years, to ensure that our capital reserves are ready for the necessary repairs and maintenance that will come up. If we go with the 20-year option, the effect on the average residence in 2012 would be a $20 increase, assuming levels of consumption stayed the same. I think this is a small price to pay to guarantee our clean water and clean river into the future, so I’m inclined to go with this recommendation, although council will also be considering a 40-year phase-in. You can see the whole report starting on page 40 of the package.
Two new 1-bedroom units, but more costs than expected
The town has a staff housing reserve, which is built up from rental revenue from staff housing units. The purpose of the reserve is to make sure that we can repair and replace units as we need to.
At present, the town is working on a project to build two new one-bedroom units into the basement of an existing town-owned house on Cougar St. This is being done to meet the housing requirements that were part of the Rec Centre redevelopment. Council had approved a $125K budget, with $42K from the Rec Centre contribution and the remainder from the staff housing reserves. Unfortunately, tenders came in higher than expected and – between that and some proposed environmental upgrades, we’re being asked to increase the budget for the project to $183,000 (the additional money will come from the staff housing reserves).
I agree in principle with providing more housing, and with environmental upgrades. I will be asking about the design process, however, since we not only have a project going over its designed budget, but we also have a huge spread in the tenders, which leads me to wonder whether the design and specs were clear enough for builders to do good bids.
You can see the whole report starting on page 48 of the package.
Starting on page 55 of the package, you’ll see a briefing report on the town’s ongoing work on transportation planning. Perhaps the most interesting part is on pages 69-74, where the writer compares our 1998 transportation plan objectives with what is in place in 2011. It’s actually rather encouraging to see the progress on many fronts, although – of course – new problems emerge. The town is working on a transportation plan update, and you can see the details of how this will be done in the report.
Farmers’ Market 2012
Council is being asked to lay out the conditions under which a farmers’ market could take place in 2012. The suggestion is that it would run weekly for 14 weeks, rather than 10 as it did this year. When you look at the report (starting on page 81 of the package) it is pretty disappointing to see the tiny amount of user feedback that was collected, and – although the planning department did interview local businesses – business feedback is not included in the report. So I will have some questions to ask about this, especially since council emphasized the need for such feedback when we gave permission for the pilot project.
My own personal observations would suggest that the market was a success and that residents enjoyed it (I sure did!) and that it did not appear to create major disruption for traffic or for other businesses. But one person’s personal observation is a pretty flimsy foundation for decision-making. I’d like to support it for next year, but would be happy to hear what you think!
THE FINE PRINT
Opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. This post does not purport to represent the position(s) of the Town of Banff or its Council.