At Morinville Council

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CLARIFICATION
This story originally said that the last budget survey done by Morinville got 77 responses. This was based on information from Mayor Turner. Council learned Feb. 20 from finance officer Shawna Jason that that survey actually got just 36 responses. The story has been updated to reflect this information.

Survey says no to community cash

Morinville residents say they don’t want to see big increases to the town’s support of its library, museum and festival society, a new survey suggests.

Town council received the results of its 2018 citizen budget survey Tuesday. The online survey, conducted by Open North between Jan. 28 and Feb. 10, received some 193 responses from residents commenting on the proposed 2018 budget.

Mayor Barry Turner said the response rate to the survey was great, considering that the last one they did drew just 36 responses.

When asked if they would increase, decrease, or maintain library funding, about 42 per cent of respondents said they wanted to see it stay at current levels. About 30 per cent wanted to see funding cut, and about 28 per cent wanted it increased.

About 48 per cent of respondents favoured the status quo when it came to Morinville Festival Society support, with about 28 per cent wanting less funding and 24 per cent wanting more. About 53 per cent wanted the Morinville Historical Society’s funding held steady, but about 40 per cent wanted to see funding cuts. Just seven per cent wanted the society to get more.

The 2018 budget has proposed a 57, 53, and four per cent increase to the town’s support of the Morinville library, festival, and historical societies, respectively.

Turner said he was surprised by these results, saying that he expected more people to call for cuts given the proposed six per cent tax hike. The overall results suggest that residents want to see funds for these groups scaled back a bit.

“People don’t want to see service levels dropping, but they want to see taxes kept at a sustainable level of increase,” Turner said.

Council was set to review the survey results at its committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, which happened after this story went to press.

Move the library?

A Morinville councillor says the town could save “hundreds of thousands” of dollars if it stuck the public library into the Community Cultural Centre. But councillors and community members say that plan is a non-starter.

Town council voted 1-6 against a request from Coun. Lawrence Giffin last Feb. 13 to explore a complex plan involving the town’s public library, high school, museum, and tourist information centre.

In an interview, Giffin explained that he had been thinking of ways to save money in the budget.

His idea was to move the public library into the Community Cultural Centre, where it would serve as the library for the Morinville Community High School and the town as a whole.

“We have duplication (of services) that frankly is unnecessary,” he said, and the breakout rooms at the cultural centre are roughly the same size as the public library.

Giffin said that if the public library were to move to the cultural centre (which he felt was underutilized), the high school could eliminate its library and chip-in to fund the public library instead, saving the town money.

This would let the Musée Morinville Museum move into the space now occupied by the library, making the museum more visible and potentially saving the town money, as it would no longer have to rent the museum’s current location, Giffin continued. He also proposed cutting support for the tourist information centre and having the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce fund it through its business training courses.

“There’s a potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings,” he said.

Giffin said that he had yet to run this proposal by the museum, and that the library was opposed to it.

Coun. Nicole Boutestein noted that the museum required special facilities for its artifacts, and that Giffin’s plan would eliminate meeting room space in the cultural centre. Coun. Stephen Dafoe noted that it would be expensive to convert those rooms into library space.

Library board chair Jennifer Anheliger said the library was already running out of space at its current site and would not fit in the high school or cultural centre. Moving the library would also be expensive.

“Now, if he wanted to move us into the rec-centre, that would be a phenomenal idea,” Anheliger said, as it would put the library in a high traffic area.

Modern school libraries are also more like classrooms and are much different from traditional libraries, said Greater St. Albert Catholic superintendent David Keohane. He questioned what would happen if three or four classes needed to use this library at once at the same time as the public.

While the museum society has not yet renewed its lease on its current site, it has negotiated a new five-year deal for it, said spokesperson Murray Knight. Moving the museum would also cost money. The society had not heard Giffin’s proposal and wanted more information before issuing a decision on it.

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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.