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At Morinville Council: Budget up for debate, new downtown lights

First reading of budget and pretty lights at Morinville Council.
morinville town hall stk CC 5251
Morinville Town Hall and Library

Budget up for debate

Morinville will have to take a hard look at its capital plan in the wake of proposed cuts to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, says the town’s mayor.

Morinville council passed first reading of its 2020 budget Oct. 22. The province tabled its 2019 budget two days later.

The provincial budget, passed as is, would slash the Municipal Sustainability Initiative by $236 million or nine per cent in the next three years starting in 2020-21.

Morinville’s draft 2020 capital plan proposed to use $672,328 in MSI cash to help pay for a new fire truck and other equipment and had assumed a 30-per-cent cut in MSI starting in 2022.

The town had expected some kind of cut to MSI but was still determining the exact effects of this cut, Morinville Mayor Barry Turner said in an interview.

“Council is going to have to take a really hard look at our capital plan and be a little bit more realistic about what will be achievable over the long term,” he said.

“Some projects just won’t be able to move forward.”

In the near term, the town would have to find a new way to fund the proposed new RCMP building, which will currently set the town back $13.2 million in three years ($600,000 of that in 2020).

“We don’t have the funds,” Turner said, and the town may have to consider federal grants or perhaps a public-private-partnership to cover this project.

Council voted unanimously in favour of its new pay policy last week as well. The policy sets council wages at the median level of 10 comparable communities. If the budget is approved, this will bump Mayor Turner’s base pay up by 29 per cent next year to $65,667 and the pay for town councillors up 37 per cent to $35,286, contributing to a total $86,617 rise in council pay this budget.

Turner said there’s never a good time to bring in wage hikes like these, but noted the new policy was based on a third-party review and is consistent with the town’s new pay policy for staff (also approved last week).

Town residents were set to weigh in on the budget at an open house Oct. 29 after this issue went to press.

Pretty lights

Morinville will get a little bit brighter this Christmas now that town council has shelled out for some new downtown lights.

Council voted Oct. 22 to spend $17,000 to add decorative lights to St. Jean Baptiste Park, town hall and the Morinville Leisure Centre.

Town planning and economic development director Brad White told council this cash was originally used to fund the town’s visitor information centre and had been held back in this year’s budget for a potential promotional partnership. No partners stepped up, so this was pitched as an alternative.

White said the plan was to string blue lights along 100 Ave. and white lights along the park’s central path and the outlines of the town hall and leisure centre buildings. These lights would stay up year-round and be turned on during special events.

Turner noted the lights would build on the town’s annual Light Up the Nite Festival and could make the town more of a tourist destination.

Coun. Sarah Hall said while she saw these Christmas lights as “almost useless,” she “begrudgingly” supported them as an initial step toward downtown development.

Coun. Stephen Dafoe said he shared her reluctance, but noted that the lights could improve public safety.

The lights should be installed in time for the December holidays, White said.

Kevin Ma

About the 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.
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