Big Valley council wants resident input on ‘Whistle’s’ fate

Written by Stu Salkeld

Big Valley village council passed first reading of a new bylaw that would change the way the community communicates with its residents. The decision was made at the March 10 regular meeting of council.

After passing first reading of the proposed advertising bylaw, councillors added that a public hearing on the bylaw will be held May 4 for Big Valley residents to voice their opinions on how the document could affect The Whistle, Big Valley’s community newsletter which can hold municipal information, notices and updates for residents.

The issue of The Whistle’s fate was brought back to council by village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tracy Mindus. “Council requested The Whistle policy be brought to the council Jan. 13 meeting for a review,” stated Mindus’ report. 

“Council requested administration to investigate the Municipal Government Act (MGA) requirements for advertising if The Whistle is no longer mailed out but available at the Canada Post office in Big Valley.

“In the past the MGA provided two options: advertising in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks or mailing a notice to every residence in the subject area. 

“Now the MGA allows for a municipality to adopt an advertising bylaw. Council must hold a public hearing for the advertising bylaw. 

“The advertising bylaw could allow for an electronic means for advertising (email, website, facebook) as well as in a publication circulating in the area. The Whistle would be a publication circulating in the area. 

“In essence The Whistle is not required to be mailed out to every resident if we adopt an advertising bylaw.”

Coun. Gail Knudson asked if the public hearing should be held before councillors pass readings but the CAO responded first reading must be passed before a public hearing can be scheduled. 

Coun. Amber Hoogenberg stated she felt people coming out to a public hearing and voicing their opinions was well worth council’s time.

Knudson, perusing the draft bylaw, asked why council resolutions need to be advertised. Mindus responded it’s to address “make it known council has decided” type requirements.

Hoogenberg stated she felt cancelling mail out of The Whistle to every residence was a bad idea, suggesting instead mailing it fewer times a month if necessary.

Mindus pointed out some MGA public notice requirements demand two consecutive weeks of advertising, which could be complicated by cutting down the number of publications.

Knudson, who has worked in the village office as municipal staff, stated The Whistle mail out is expensive which is frustrating when she has seen many of them discarded at the post office in the past. 

Knudson stated she knows Big Valley seniors in particular enjoy reading The Whistle, but it costs around $3,000 a year in tax dollars to mail out.

Mayor Dan Houle agreed that The Whistle is a useful way of getting village information to residents. “It’s the Facebook of Big Valley,” he said.

Mindus stated that if councillors approved first reading of the advertising bylaw, a public hearing could be scheduled which would give Big Valley residents a chance to voice their opinions on what should be done with The Whistle. 

The CAO noted councillors could then consider that feedback when pondering second and third reading.

Councillors unanimously approved first reading of the proposed advertising bylaw, and set a public hearing on the matter for May 4.

 

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.