At County Council: no to water line, yes to electronic votes

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Water line study snipped

Sturgeon County needs to think about the big picture before it even considers building a water line to Lily Lake, says county councillors.

County council voted 2-5 against a motion from Coun. Patrick Tighe Tuesday to add a feasibility study for building a water line to the Lily Lake region to the 2018 budget. (Tighe and Coun. Neal Comeau were in the minority.)

Lily Lake is midway between Legal and Redwater and features seven multi-lot subdivisions.

“It’s an area that has had little growth as far as new development,” Tighe said, but road improvements could spark new construction.

While the county was looking to densify, Tighe said there would still be a demand for acreage-style developments in the future. He said the county should study a potential water line here now, as a line could influence investment decisions made by landowners.

Council heard that this study would cost about $30,000 and that a water line would take at least three years to build.

Coun. Susan Evans cautioned against this proposal, as council is set to debate such projects later this year as it plans growth nodes for the new Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board and creates an infrastructure master plan. She also had many subdivisions in her riding that might want a water line as well.

“That’s why it’s important we really step back and take a high level view of the whole picture and plan accordingly, otherwise we’ll find ourselves with legacy issues,” she said.

Coun. Karen Shaw also opposed the motion, noting that the county had a process in place to address these issues.

“We are not making decisions ad hoc,” she said.

When asked if Lily Lake residents supported a water line, Tighe said many residents were ambivalent about it, as they did not know the cost – information this study would get.

While she acknowledged Tighe’s wish to get water to this area, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said the county had to implement these projects in a planned way.

“I don’t want to offer something to somebody that they don’t want to pay for.”

High-tech voting

County councillors will no longer have to wave for attention at council meetings next year once they boot up a new electronic voting system.

Council approved changes to its procedure bylaw Tuesday with little debate. The changes allow councillors to use electronic voting technology to vote or request permission to speak, and specifies that all votes will be recorded and publicly displayed.

County councillors currently raise their hands to vote or ask permission to speak in meetings. Due to the long, mostly straight nature of the council table, this often means that the mayor will miss speaking requests on account of facing the wrong way. Onlookers also have trouble spotting how councillors vote due to hands sometimes raised only part way.

Council bought the VoteCast software last year to solve these problems and to make meetings more transparent, legislative officer Christine Beveridge said in an interview.

The program, which is already used by five area governments including St. Albert city council, lets councillors tap a button on a touch-screen to request to speak. The chair sees these requests on his or her display and the order in which they are made. Councillors can also tap buttons to vote yea or nay on motions, with their votes displayed on projector screens for all to see.

Council will go back to hand-votes if the electronic system is unavailable, Beveridge said.

Council will learn to use the new software next month and start using it this January.

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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.