Approximately 25 Morrin residents heard information and received copies of documents in response to Facebook postings at an open information meeting at the Morrin Community Centre in Morrin, Ab. Sept. 14. ECA Review/J.Webster
An information meeting was held at the Morrin Community Centre on Thurs. Sept. 14 in response to statements made on social media.
Howard Helton informed the approximate 25 in attendance that he felt a public setting rather than a to-and-fro on Facebook and presented documents of fact.
Helton addressed ratepayer concerns by opening the meeting quoting from the Municipal Affairs Information Summary, “The MGA sets out clear requirements for municipal councils to conduct their business openly (except in very limited and specific circumstances).
“The powers of a municipal council are balanced by councils’ accountability to the citizens who elect them.
“It is therefore essential that citizens are allowed to take an active interest in the development and direction of our local governments and express their views to their locally elected representatives,” unquote.
Helton addressed lack of access to documents including, but not limited to, agendas and minutes; issues regarding charges for photocopies,;use of village personnel and equipment for personal use by council and administration; CAO babysitting grandson in village office during business hours; process of a decision on a lighting contract for the village office; and the perception of favouritism in an application of the RV Parking Bylaw.
Helton provided documentation from the minutes that addressed these issues and completed his presentation stating “my purpose is not to criticize but rather to stimulate thought and retrospect in council and administration when they approach these issues and consider the ratepayers’ perspective and perceptions.”
Derogatory and demeaning
John Siemens opened his presentation speaking to what he stated were “derogatory and demeaning in one particular case” on social media posts by Deputy Mayor David McLeod, adding “The comment is hurtful and degrading” .
Among other things, his volunteerism for the community was slammed in which he noted, “I do not have to be seen to do things. I do my civic duty without charge and without fan fare.
“I’ve taken on the challenge of helping a young lad with cerebral palsy, building many items of special furniture, and a special item so he can attend school programming, all at no cost for my labour and material.
“This is ongoing, I do not want recognition but if you think all I do is eat and complain, then I need to point it out.”
Siemens added, “I spend upwards of 60 hours mowing grass for a senior, and blowing snow for countless others in the winter at no charge, not for gas or my equipment; I’ve fixed furnaces, repaired dishwashers, etc.
“I’m not standing up on a pedestal bragging but being I’m forced into this situation. I don’t need to belong to a club, I do by deeds quietly for the people of Morrin who need my help,” stated Siemens.
He also addressed the lack of a compromise on the issue of his sewer line which as been an ongoing fight for two years.
A repair that was eventually proven to be on town property (according the MPE Engineering report) and Siemens not reimbursed for scoping the line as others were.
Siemens noted a neighbour who had a broken sewer line and a niece whose line had tree roots impending her sewer line both had their bills for scoping the sewer line picked up by the village.
He also noted that the information provided to council by MPE Engineering regarding where the sewer line repair was done was absent from the village minutes despite it being part of the report.
On this issue, Siemens suggested a proper bylaw clearly outlining what responsibility the village has, similar to the wording in a bylaw example that Three Hills and Drumheller have.
“With no bylaw or policy regarding sewer problems, it leaves the door wide open to pick and choose and make the rules as they go along which makes it seem unfair to anybody whose asking the question,” said Siemens.
Refusal of providing public documents, lack of accurate minutes, barring the public from village meetings, charging $55 for one page for photocopies, and $1 for each additional page, refusal of council dealing with the CAO’s lack of service to the public, and discrepancies in recording the minutes, all things that is required by the FOIPP Act and the FOIPP Regulations, the Municipal Government Act, and Regulations.
Publisher Joyce Webster addressed the attendees on comments made on social media regarding attempting to “blackmail council”, “harassing council” and printing “garbage”.
Webster assured attendees that everything reported in the newspaper is accurate and noting if readers were in disagreement, they have the option of going to the Alberta Press Council.
“I wouldn’t be in business today if I had spent my 33 years ‘making up’ news,” said Webster.
She went on to say, “I’m the first to admit that the reports are incredibly lacking in information due to failure to be provided the documentation” that is tabled at the meetings.
She cited a package provided to media for the Delia council meeting Sept. 14, that contained 89 pages that included the agenda, minutes of previous meetings, 14 pages for a Development Permit application, cheque register, financial report, several Requests for Decision (RFD) with the attached documentation, and all the correspondence.
“That is what media and the public should expect from all council meetings.”
She addressed the bias regarding phone/text received during council meetings; the CAO not picking up the phone during office hours when the ECA Review is calling, emails going unanswered, and lack of meeting packages.
She concluded her presentation by reading a portion of the Municipal Inspection Report for the Village of Alix that stated, “That council meeting agendas along with a complete set of accompanying public documents are made available to the public in a timely fashion through the municipal website, at least two days prior to the meeting, and that draft minutes are also made available on the municipal website within a few days of each meeting.”