At County Council: OHV rules and pay review


New rules for OHVs

Off-roaders will have to keep their lights on and license ready at all times under proposed new rules for off-highway vehicles in Sturgeon County.

County council voted 5-1 in favour of first reading of the new off-highway vehicles bylaw Tuesday. Coun. Patrick Tighe was opposed, and Coun. Dan Derouin absent.

The draft law rewrites the county’s current off-highway vehicle rules to bring them in line with new provincial regulations, county fire chief Pat Mahoney told council. The current rules were last updated in 2004.

The law, if passed, would restrict off-highway vehicle use in the county to between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m., instead of 8 a.m. to midnight. This restriction would not apply to agricultural uses.

The draft law expands the definition of “highway” to include any place where people can normally drive or park vehicles, including sidewalks, boulevards, ditches, and land between fences on road rights-of-way.

Anyone who drives an off-highway vehicle on a highway must do so on the extreme right side of the road or in the ditch, and must carry a valid driver’s or operator’s license, the draft law says. Operators would not be allowed to drive in environmental reserves or other areas signed as off-limits by the county under the law. Operators and passengers would have to wear helmets and (if present) seat-belts under the law, and would not be allowed to pile more people onto a vehicle than it was designed to hold.

The draft law requires vehicles to have a visible license plate attached as well as a head- and tail-light, both of which must be lit at all times. Vehicles must also have mufflers that do not produce sparks or excessive noise. Trailer hitches must prevent trailers from colliding with the vehicle when it stops or is on a slope and cannot be longer than 1.83 metres.

The draft law also raises fines for violations. Whereas fines under the current law range from $50 to $150, the new one has fines of $75 to $500.

Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr asked if this law would apply to electric scooters and other mobility devices used by seniors. Mahoney said yes, adding that council could exempt such vehicles if it wished.

Tighe said this law proposed significant changes to off-highway vehicle use, and he wanted to see more public education and consultation before first reading.

“I think we need to have a total rewrite of this with public engagement.”

The law will come back for second reading in early fall at council’s suggestion, Mahoney said in an interview.

Heartland task force

A Heartland resident has praised councillors for striking a task force to deal with the ongoing pressures of industrialization in his neighbourhood.

County council voted 6-0 Tuesday in favour of approving the Heartland Area Resident Task Force terms of reference. The task force is meant to find ways to mitigate the effects that rapid industrialization has had on people living in and around the Alberta Industrial Heartland region.

The terms of reference say that this task force will consist of up to six area residents plus the mayor and area councillor (i.e. Mayor Alanna Hnatiw and Coun. Karen Shaw). It is to issue recommendations to council within 12 months.

Marty Derouin, a Heartland resident who ran for council last election, said that this task force was long overdue, and that he hoped to be part of it.

“Ten years plus we’ve been looking for answers, and now with this new proactive council, we’ll hopefully see some results.”

Heartland residents will soon receive invitations to apply for the task force, a report to council says.

Pay review begins

County council will spend up to $50,000 this year to find out if they’re being paid too much – or not enough.

Council voted 5-1 in favour of spending up to $50,000 this year to hire a third-party consultant to review council remuneration. Shaw was opposed.

Financial services manager Ed Kaemingh said he had reviewed the options for such a review at council’s request, and found that hiring a consultant was the best option. Council could use a public committee, but likely wouldn’t have results back in time for the 2019 budget.

The review is expected to take up to seven months.

CAO recruitment begins

Sturgeon County has officially begun its search for a permanent CAO – a search that could cost up to $76,000.

County council voted 6-0 in favour of a series of motions from Hnatiw Tuesday to create a CAO recruitment committee consisting of herself and councillors Bokenfohr and Susan Evans and to allow that group to hire a recruitment firm for up to $76,000.

Council hired Bill Minnes as an interim chief administrative officer earlier this year. He is expected to stay on for about six months until the county hires a permanent top executive. This committee is meant to recommend a person for that job to council.

Evans suggested, and Hnatiw agreed, to have the committee review bids from recruitment firms and make a recommendation to council later this year.


About Author

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.