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    Categories: Lifestyle

Public engagement going as planned, city

Town hall meetings and a report on the potential for the resurrection of a municipal planning commission-type committee of council are next on the agenda for the city when it comes to further communicating with and engaging the public.

St. Albert city council received as information Monday night a report detailing how the corporation has gone about reaching out to residents since February. The proposed initiatives — some of which have been addressed and some which are still pending — stem from two goals council set for better interacting with the public. The first goal was to review and refine the strategies and processes it uses to consult and communicate in engaging with people. Goal two involved encouraging more open communication with all residents of St. Albert.

Jennifer Jennax, general manager of business and strategic services, said the biggest achievement this year was setting up webstreaming of council meetings, which began earlier this month. Council has since broadcast two meetings on the web.

“It’s providing the public with another tool to be aware of what’s going on in. It’s meant to be more convenient,” Jennax said.

At Monday’s meeting, Crouse said approximately 300 people had tuned in to the first webcast meeting, but later said many of those were city staff monitoring the quality of the feed.

“What we need to do is find out what is the ongoing statistic. That’s going to take until 2012,” Crouse said.

The city has also ramped up its social media presence, launching several different Twitter and Facebook sites, each tailored to a specific department. The response from individuals who become followers or friends of those feeds has been more than what was expected, Jennax said.

“The growth in the number of followers has been greater than what we assumed it would be within such a short time frame,” she said. “The beauty is we can keep people informed of events across the city.”

Moving into 2012, the city will host three town hall meetings at different times and locations, which Jennax says are intended to ensure residents from all demographics can attend at least one if they so choose. The meetings will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Wednesday, May 30 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 4 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Coun. Cam MacKay will also be bringing forward in January a report on the potential for resurrecting the municipal planning commission that was abolished by a previous council, to deal with development permit matters.

“The planning advisory committee is kind of the next piece of this action,” Crouse said. “Whatever this looks like, some people would prefer a municipal planning commission, so that’s the next step.”

But for Crouse, webstreaming is the one initiative with the potential to reach the most homes.

“Anyone can watch council proceedings now. It’s hard to say which of the other ideas will have the biggest impact going forward. The jury is out on whether or not we have a strong turnout for the town halls.”

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