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County council clashed this week on a proposed motion to make all council compensation public – with many councillors saying that that information was already widely available.

Council voted 4-3 against a motion from Coun. Patrick Tighe to have administration provide a full report on compensation given to councillors this term. Tighe, Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr and Mayor Tom Flynn were in the minority.

Tighe noted that Morinville had a detailed remuneration policy that set out what its councillors got for sitting on various committees, and said this information would be of use to future county council candidates.

“I think (the public) should be made aware of every single penny that goes to elected officials.”

Councillors Susan Evans, Ferd Caron, Jerry Kaup and Karen Shaw questioned the need for this motion, as virtually all council expenses and per-diems were already published on the county’s website.

“This information is already available online and has been available forever,” Shaw said, adding that some councillors appeared to be “going down the cheap-campaign-fodder road” with this motion.

County commissioner Peter Tarnawsky said that information was also in the county’s annual reports, but noted that it did not include payments from external committees.

“That’s a transaction directly between the councillor and the committee,” he said, and it would be up to individual councillors to disclose it.

Council compensation had not changed for many years beyond cost-of-living increases, he added.

Kaup said ratepayers were interested in what council was costing them, and that information was already available.

“That’s all we have to give them.”

Kaup said he would like to see a comparison made with what the previous council took home in compensation.

“There were some pretty extravagant things that went on in the previous council that would make us look pretty good right now.”

Bokenfohr argued that some councillors fought to stay on certain committees due to the compensation involved. Evans questioned if this motion was really about some councillors being upset about not getting onto certain committees.

Flynn voiced concern about the value of this report given the amount of work needed to compile it.

Administration did not say when the report would come back to council.

County bibliophiles won’t get a free ride for Canada’s 150th, council has decided, but might get one for the county’s centennial.

County council voted unanimously against a proposal from Ferd Caron to give out free library cards this year in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Community services manager Susan Berry recommended that council vote down the motion. The county had started work on its Canada 150th celebrations on the assumption that they would be cost-free, but found this initiative would cost at least $75,842 based on the number of memberships bought last year. The county would also have to refund the 240 people who had already bought library cards this year.

“You have no control over the budget impact when you advertise to promote a program like this,” Berry said.

Caron said this was much more expensive than he anticipated, and no longer supported the idea.

Berry noted that free cards could come back as an idea for the county’s centennial in 2018.

County roadsides will be a bit less weedy in the future now that council has agreed to pay for more mowing.

Council approved new weed management policies Tuesday that would see crews mow around entrance signs and along high-traffic roadways.

Crews will now mow these areas at least twice a year, said agriculture services manager Angela Veenstra. Administration will also get a permit from the province to mow around county signs along provincial roads about four times per growing season. These changes will cost $44,000.

Caron voiced approval for the change, saying that the county had been lacking when it came to maintenance of its main roads.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.