Idea of out of town planning session shot down
Council votes against moving annual priorities meeting away from St. Albert
Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 06:00 am
Council rejected the idea of going on a two-day, out-of-town retreat for its annual strategic priorities planning session.
The past three years that annual meeting, typically held in January, has been held at a hotel in St. Albert. Prior to that the meeting was held out of town for several years.
Coun. Cathy Heron presented a motion to hold the 2015 meeting off-site, one which was defeated in a 4-3 vote.
She said her first experience of the planning session was in 2011, when council went to Sylvan Lake along with senior staff. She said it was a valuable experience.
“I’ve found the last couple years the retreats haven’t been as productive,” she said.
“The last three sessions that we have had in town, people have not showed up on time, they have left early, they have not gone for lunch, they have not attended the dinner after. The parts of the retreat that are important for the team building and the trust-building with administration have been completely lacking the last three years,” Heron said.
She argued against the idea that going to a place like Sylvan Lake in the middle of winter is an entitlement, and suggested the cost would only be a few thousand dollars more.
“A football team that never huddles will fail,” she said. Heron said she wants to work on building the trust level and getting 100 per cent commitment to the process.
Coun. Wes Brodhead said he’d support the motion and that in his experience out-of-town meetings are more productive.
“I’m not looking for another opportunity to leave town. Trust me, I like sleeping in my own bed as much as the next person,” Brodhead said.
Others were not as enthused at the idea.
“Do we think we’re entitled to give ourselves trips?” asked Coun. Sheena Hughes.
Hughes noted the recent travel-related scandals plaguing the provincial government, and suggested the cost increase would be over $10,000.
“This motion shows no respect for tax dollars,” she said.
Hughes said if the meeting was held out of town she wouldn’t go and would instead bring motions forward at a regular council meeting to add or subtract priorities.
Coun. Tim Osborne noted if there’s not a commitment for all of council to go out of town, the result won’t be as positive.
“I’m not going to support this motion because I do believe the outcome will be very similar whether we go out of town or stay here in St. Albert,” Osborne said, adding a challenge for his council colleagues to show up, respect the process in place and provide meaningful input during the meeting.
Coun. Cam MacKay said the practice of going out of town had been changed by a previous council that wanted to send a strong message about being concerned with tax dollars.
“I think it’s a strong message to send just on a matter like this, we’re going to be fiscally responsible,” MacKay said.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he wasn’t sure how he’d vote, noting he thinks the product of the meetings is of higher quality if they go out of town – but only if everyone shows up.
Heron, Brodhead and Coun. Gilles Prefontaine voted in favour of going out of town for the session, while Crouse, Hughes, MacKay and Osborne voted against the motion, which was defeated.