Councillors contest closed topics
Two St. Albert city councillors questioned why topics at Tuesday’s council meeting were addressed in closed session.
Tuesday’s agenda included six items to be discussed in camera, where members of the public and media cannot be present.
In camera items are identified by a title stating the topic, as well as citations from sections of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) for why they are held in camera.
Council moved in camera for close to two hours part way into Tuesday’s meeting to discuss alternative servicing, drawing questions from Coun. Sheena Hughes. Hughes said she was unclear on why the discussion was closed to the public or even what the discussion would entail.
City manager Kevin Scoble said the topic was “semi-related” to another motion on the agenda from Mayor Cathy Heron for a report on the feasibility of a municipal utility corporation, but added that was not the purpose of the presentation.
“The reasons were given as per FOIP, so it involves business interests of the municipality and economic interests, and it’s related to utilities,” Scoble said.
Hughes ultimately voted in favour of the motion to go in camera but said she felt council was dealing with too many items in closed session.
“I’m just getting a little weary because we have so many in camera items that keep coming up before this council,” she said.
“I’m just getting a little concerned about that,” Hughes said.
Later in the meeting, both Hughes and Coun. Natalie Joly voted against going in camera to discuss a withdrawal from the public art reserve. That item was accompanied by a confidential report from city staff as well as a recommendation, not disclosed in open council.
The reason given for going in camera was that the discussion would involve advice from officials.
Joly spoke against the motion to move in camera.
“I’m not supporting this motion,” she said.
“I read through exceptions in FOIP, I could find nothing that really shows we need to go in-camera for this.”
Despite objections, the motions to go in camera were carried. Aside from those two items the other council items discussed in camera were described as a land matter, an intergovernmental affairs matter, councillor/city manager dialogue and council dialogue.
Stormwater report delayed
A city report with a proposed stormwater rate system has been delayed by three months.
The city has been looking at ways to change its stormwater fees by including an “imperviousness factor” – or the amount of water-resistant surfaces on a property causing runoff into the storm system.
A presentation to the former city council last year in September showed that most residents and businesses would ultimately pay less but others would pay much more. Ten residents were expected to see their fees increase by more than $1,000 and 54 commercial and industrial businesses were expected to see their fees increase by more than $10,000.
City staff said they hoped to find ways to mitigate those high charges.
The report will now come to council on Sept. 24 and will include an option to switch stormwater revenues and expenses from the utility side of the budget to the municipal side. That could mean a change in utility rates and a corresponding change in taxes.