At Town Council: ball diamonds, sewer rates, and RV parking

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Utility rates up

Morinville residents will have to pay about $26 more for utilities next year if town council approve a trio of rate hikes.

Town council passed first reading of its 2018 water, sewer, and waste rate bylaws last week.

Approved as is, the three rates will add about $25.83 to the average resident’s annual utility bill, said Shawna Jason, the town’s financial services director. That’s an increase of $14.24 for sewer, $9.79 for water, and $1.80 for trash, or 1.86 per cent overall.

These increases were due in part to price hikes by Epcor, the town’s waste contractor, and the Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission, Jason said. The typical homeowner would pay about $1,418.03 in utility costs next year under the proposed rates.

Jason noted that Morinville’s average annual residential water consumption dropped about seven per cent last year despite a two per cent increase in population. This suggested that the town’s water conservation efforts were working and that its water system had few leaks.

The proposed rates come back for second reading this Dec. 12.

Play ball?

Morinville’s midget and bantam baseball players will get to play ball in town again should council approve a plan to restore an old ball diamond.

Town council moved last week to consider a $35,000 plan to bring back the Shell Diamond at the Ray McDonald Sports Grounds as part of its 2018 budget.

The town shut down this ball diamond in 2010 due to falling enrolment in the town’s minor baseball league, said town sport and recreation co-ordinator Tyler Edworthy. The backstop is still there, but the fence isn’t, and the diamond has been grassed over.

Baseball’s popularity has picked up in recent years, but the town doesn’t have any diamonds big enough for midget (18 and under) or bantam (15 and under) players, Edworthy said. North Central Alberta Baseball League commissioner Paul Riopel called on council earlier this year to build a new diamond on its rec-centre lands to address this gap, saying that talented athletes were leaving town for St. Albert because of it.

While the town’s regional rec-centre plans have some ball diamonds sketched into them, those fields were five to seven years away from construction, said town chief administrative officer Andy Isbister.

“These kids need to be able to play at least some of their games in their home town.”

The town’s minor soccer and baseball associations both supported this plan, Edworthy said. Restoring the diamond would eliminate a soccer pitch, but three new soccer pitches are set to open next year at the Notre Dame sports field. He did not see any ball-related risks to bystanders at the Morinville Splash Park, as they would be about 168 m away – much father than most players could hit a ball.

RV parking parked

Town council has hit the brakes on new rules for parking RV vehicles out of concern for what those rules could mean for kids.

Council voted 4-3 to send proposed changes to Morinville’s community standards bylaw back to committee of the whole last week (councillors Stephen Dafoe, Rebecca Balanko, and Mayor Barry Turner opposed). The changes had been up for second reading.

The changes, which were presented at an open house last October, deal mostly with the rules on where and when people can park recreational vehicles (RVs) on their property.

Currently, residents can legally park an RV in their front yard from April 1 to October 31 so long as it is on an approved hard surface pad.

Council is considering making it so that a RV can be parked out front year-round provided the vehicle is on an approved pad, is at least a meter from the curb or sidewalk, and does not take up more than half of the property’s off-street parking area. RVs could also be parked on approved pads in side or back lots that are screened by an opaque 1.5 m tall fence.

The proposed bylaw also expands the definition of “RV” to include utility trailers, watercraft, tent trailers, off-road vehicles and other work/recreation-related craft.

Community and protective services director David Schaefer said administration proposed these changes to address concerns from bylaw officers and residents such as Dale Metcalfe, who last month questioned why parked RVs would be unsightly at some times of the year and not others.

“They’re not seasonable anymore. Many people are using these 365 days a year,” Schaefer said.

Coun. Nicole Boutestein opposed the changes, saying that large trailers on neighbourhood driveways kept drivers from seeing kids until they darted out from behind them.

“We’re creating an environment that’s unsafe, and there’s no way to get around it.”

Council will discuss this matter at its Dec. 19 committee of the whole meeting.

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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.