Big Valley village councillors and public discuss newsletter concerns

Written by Stu Salkeld

Big Valley village council discussed challenges facing the popular community newsletter at their regular council meeting April 13. As council enjoyed a large number of members of the public at the council meeting, those residents were also included in the discussion.

Mayor Dan Houle asked that the topic of The Whistle newsletter be placed on the agenda again. Houle echoed concerns that he has actually stated in the past: that The Whistle is an important way to communicate within the Village of Big Valley, that it’s important to people who don’t use computers or social media and that the method used for distribution currently isn’t as effective as he’d like.

Mayor Houle named several large recent events in the village that he’s discussed with other members of the community who, it turns out, weren’t aware the events were occurring. Houle told his peers he felt having The Whistle more easily accessible would increase the amount of information circulating in Big Valley.

Houle presented a recent copy of The Whistle he’d received and noted parts of it were now being printed in colour. Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Elaine Macdonald responded colour was added for aesthetic effect and costs about $300 to $400.

The mayor expressed concern that he didn’t understand why more money was being spent on The Whistle as councillors had altered the newsletter distribution to reduce its cost.
He also suggested a possible subscription fee of, for example, $50 a year to help cover expenses.

At least one member of the public stated they don’t use social media and have no intention of using social media even if it’s to get information about the community; this member of the public stated The Whistle was one source of information they used.

Coun. Amber Hoogenberg noted that if people want The Whistle they know where they can pick it up, which is part of recent changes to help save money.

The CAO noted a box is located outside the post office where 100 copies of The Whistle are left, and municipal staff drop off copies at various locations around the village.

The mayor disagreed with Hoogenberg, stating he believed many villagers don’t know where they can pick up The Whistle. At this point more than one of the public present at the meeting confirmed this, noting they were unaware The Whistle was available in the pick-up box and have had trouble finding the newsletter in the community.

Coun. Clark German also stated he was a bit confused by the village spending more on the newsletter when efforts have been made in the past to cut costs on the project.

It was noted at the meeting that the village has a bylaw in place that limits how often a topic can be brought back to a council meeting after a council decision has been made, and the CAO pointed out it could apply to this topic.

Councillors made a decision last fall regarding distribution of The Whistle voicing concern about high mailing costs.

Councillors unanimously accepted the discussion as information.

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.