Reeve Larry Clarke brought forward the use of live broadcasts of their council meetings after a resident asked about its validity on Wed. May 8.
With recent media articles, he was asked if it was pertinent to have the media, such as newspapers and radio, have a seat in council chambers to witness and report on meetings.
He opened the table to conversation if they would like to stop having media present at meetings by having their communications specialist send out press releases instead to mitigate confusion or misinformation.
Along with this, the validity of using Youtube as a form of communication and bridging that gap between council and residents was questioned as the Town of Stettler and local school board have voiced they will not pursue live streaming of meetings based on the County’s experience with it.
Currently, the county bolsters between 19 and 25 viewers at any given time throughout the stream, however, the first quarter of 2019 showed an average of 320 views per council meeting.
“So people are watching and listening and getting their information from going to our Stettler County Youtube site and watching their government in action,” said Niki Thorsteinsson, director of communications.
They began streaming since August 2017 and have since accumulated 5,500 views.
Council agreed to direct the policy committee to review the policy rather than make a resolution at this time.
A survey will also be posted on their website to better understand the public’s feeling on having access to this service.
Reeve Clark did encourage the public to sit in on meetings as they are always open.
Coun. Ernie Gendre felt the live streaming opened the door to employee abuse.
“There was some I would say misquoted, some words that should not be stated to public officials, so on that behalf I look at it – we are exposing our employees, employers to some abuse around here,” said Gendre.
“I don’t think that is what is causing it. It happens on a regular basis. We had that well before we ever had that [livestream]. Now they are on social media and abusing people rather than on the front counter,” said Coun. James Nibourg. “I’m in favour of keeping it. The town and the school board can do what they want. I think it’s open and transparent. I was one of those individuals that were taken out of context and like a duck, it washes off my back. This is part of the deal that we signed up for.”
Coun. Cheri Neitz felt the access to the videos could open the county up to litigation if, for example, a councillor were to say something they shouldn’t have.
“That’s the unfortunate thing, not as many people go on there and watch it and find the true facts – the meaning behind what we are saying,” said Neitz.
Due to the consistent number of viewers, Coun. Nibourg felt the broadcast has been positive in keeping the public engaged.
He also mentioned there are risks to being in this position but are always open to conversation.
“We make the odd mistake, you know we are all human and it happens and if they take little bits and pieces, the people that know you are not going to care one way or the other. They are going to know the real truth. To me, that’s what matters. “We don’t need to be scared of the public. We don’t. I honestly think if you’re voting against having this public broadcast you’re scared of the public,” said Nibourg. Coun. Neitz added that she has been told that some delegations that attend council are quite intimidated by the camera.
“I don’t want to deter people to come and talk to us,” said Neitz.
Thorsteinsson brought up some history on the matter as to how council originally arrived at this decision by mentioning that the public would often accuse them of having ‘backdoor deals or pre-conceived ideas’ before they reached the table.
“Over five years, we have cultivated a whole different culture here with being very open and being very transparent and while it has raised some issues like sometimes taking bits and pieces, it also solved a lot of issues that we have to remember,” she said.
“Recent changes to the Municipal Government Action (MGA) have cultivated more public participation, not less. They want more access to their government. They want more access to their elected officials so I really feel taking this away is a step backwards, not steps forward.”
Annual road use agreement
North Star Trucking owner and county ratepayer Dallas Pybus came to council with some questions and possible solutions to the parameters of annual road use agreements.
The current road use agreement is set at five loads per day but, as Pybus mentioned in his delegation, an average base load is around six to ten.
With the demand to finish work quickly, follow the rules set in the agreement and make a living, he found this to be a bit of a “double standard”, especially compared to other companies who are known for not following the agreement.
He said that nearly 80 per cent of his business is now made up of farmer related jobs and 20 per cent oilfield work so not much notice is received before a job is asked to be done.
“We get 24 hour notice on a basement,” said Pybus.
Pybus was in contact with administration and peace officers before approaching council with his concerns.
He requested a blanket road use agreement to limit red tape and still abide by the agreement.
Rick Green, director of engineering and public works, was concerned with how well the pavement would hold up with constant traffic as it needs time to readjust, thus the current five loads were put in place.
After discussion, council, administration and Pybus came up with the idea of possibly implementing an incentive program to give local and outside companies the chance to prove themselves.
There was also talk of having a meeting at the beginning of the year to set a bond and give notice of upcoming projects.
This way, the bond would go to the company rather than per job, building a good rapport.
Council accepted the presentation as information.
Battle flag sponsorship
Malcolm Bisset requested $650 in funding to produce a 4’x8’ colour rendition of a battle flag which will become part of the ‘Museum on Wheels’ display.
Council chose to sponsor the sign through the Rural Development Fund.
This display honours the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment, many of whom called Stettler and Central Alberta home.
The display is an airstream trailer which inside highlights each of the soldiers who served and the battles they fought.
The battle flag sign will be in the back of the truck which pulls the Airstream trailer.