Council set its sights on residents who encroach on city parkland by asking for an administrative review of the problem as well as a potential policy or bylaw to address it.
The review and legislation won’t be ready until 2019, but councillors heard on Dec. 4 encroachments cost the city money for altered maintenance and operation costs, damaged equipment and infrastructure, safety hazards and limited access to utility services.
The city’s engineering services department typically looks at more than 140 encroachments each year. More than 90 per cent of those get resolved without some type of enforcement needing to happen.
Long-term engineering supervisor Tanya Hynes said there are two ways the city handles encroachments: either they require residents to move whatever is encroaching on public land, or they charge a fee for encroachments.
Although Hynes did not give specific examples or numbers, she said most of the unresolved encroachments are on parkland.
“There’s some pretty egregious parkland encroachments that are going to be pretty expensive for some people to remove,” she said.
The city does not have specific legislation in place to handle encroachments, but instead deals with parkland encroachment through the traffic bylaw.
Hynes called that method “clunky” and said the city will be updating its parks bylaw in 2018 and will likely address parkland encroachment at that time.
Survey process won’t be reviewed
Councillors narrowly defeated a motion by Coun. Sheena Hughes to review the weaknesses of the city’s current survey processes after a debate that revealed plenty of concerns with the way surveys are conducted.
Councillors Wes Brodhead, Natalie Joly and Ken MacKay, as well as Mayor Cathy Heron, voted against the motion.
Hughes said she lost confidence in the survey process after nearly two-thirds of voters cast plebiscite votes against building a branch library – a different result than the city had reported from a 2016 capital projects survey.
Hughes said the situation was “unacceptable” as the previous council had based some of its decisions on that survey.
“I personally cannot believe any survey that comes forward until we do soul searching to try to take steps to make sure this does not happen again,” she said.
Coun. Natalie Joly described some past surveys as “not worth the paper they were printed on” and said she isn’t confident the city even has a survey process.
However, she said recent changes in administration influenced her vote against Hughes’ motion, since she wants city staff to have time and space to develop a communication strategy with residents.
Coun. Ken MacKay said he wasn’t sure what a review would accomplish considering how many factors would need to be taken into consideration.
“I would hope that as part of the whole process, the methodology would be just a matter of review anyways,” he said.
Support for trades
St. Albert will continue its support of Women Building Futures in 2018 by providing $4,200 in funding for one student’s tuition.
The $4,200 will be added to the $103-million operating budget which councillors will vote on on Dec. 18.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of issuing the funding, despite councillors Natalie Joly, Jacquie Hansen and Mayor Cathy Heron expressing concern about funding one-time projects.
Heron, who brought the funding request forward, relinquished the chair to Coun. Wes Brodhead in order to present on her motion.
She said she wants Women Building Futures to find a St. Albert resident to give the funding to. Councillors heard Women Building Futures will also be prioritizing an Indigenous student to receive the funding.
“It’s inspiring positive economic change for our local residents. The idea is to attract local women to work as operators in our municipality,” Heron said.