With two months of meetings and one budget under the belt of the new city council, the St. Albert Gazette caught up with each council member about what’s coming in 2018 and what they’ve learned so far. Each council member will be featured in upcoming issues.
Comfortable in her reputation as a fiscal hawk, St. Albert Coun. Sheena Hughes is looking forward to continuing the legacies of past councillors in 2018.
Most committees will have their first meetings in January, including two of the committees Hughes sits on: the audit and policing committees.
Hughes said she wanted to see the committees succeed in part because they were strongly advocated for by former councillors Cam MacKay and Bob Russell.
“I took on both of these because I recognized these are two people who are not currently on council, and I want to make sure what they were trying to achieve in the previous term is not lost,” she said.
“I think as long as the people who are there want to see (the committees) be successful, that is the key.”
Hughes has high hopes for the audit committee, which will help give direction to St. Albert’s new internal auditor. She believes the service can help find efficiencies and potentially reduce spending within city departments.
“The internal auditor can do things that council cannot do … and challenge staff and council to look at things differently,” she said.
Hughes also sits on the committee negotiating a proposed annexation of land from Sturgeon County, which she feels she can play an important role in.
“The negotiations on this need to be handled well,” she said.
“I’m glad I’m there because I have the history to be able to know where we’re going, and I have an understanding of why we’re doing things, what we’re doing and the concerns we have.”
With the new year, Hughes is looking forward to council’s upcoming strategic planning session on Jan. 11 and 12 and discovering what the focus of her fellow council members is, as well as the depth of the strategic plan itself.
She plans to bring up the way the city uses its current amenities and how to grow the city in the most cost-effective way possible.
Council is currently waiting on a couple of reports from administration on the city’s short-term and long-term facility needs before addressing the results of a plebiscite on future city facilities. The plebiscite saw voters favour a new pool above another ice sheet and additional library space.
“The second part of next year will tell us the direction council is planning to move and what we should expect, both in projects and the costs associated with them,” she said.
“(I’m interested in) which capital projects will come forward in the next 12 months, and the tax increases that will ensue.”
The plebiscite itself is one thing Hughes counts as a win from 2017.
“One of the things I’m grateful for is that council did approve that plebiscite motion,” she said, adding the results changed the direction council was heading toward.
“I realize at this point the council has not enacted the results of the plebiscite, but we do at least have a clear indication of where the public stands on these issues.”