Morrin Village council may fine former mayor over CCAN

Morrin village council may send a peace officer to a former mayor’s home over a metal storage container that’s forbidden in the municipality’s residential areas. The resolution to enforce CCAN rules was made at the April 17 regular meeting of council.

Councillors heard a verbal report from village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner regarding a public complaint about a transmodal shipping container, a large metal storage unit commonly referred to as a CCAN, located on the residential property of former Morrin mayor Howard Helton.

Plachner presented a copy of the village’s Land-Use Bylaw (LUB) which was read aloud by Coun. Lorraine MacArthur; the LUB states CCANS are not permanently permitted in residential areas, only temporarily while construction is underway.

MacArthur stated Helton was previously sent a letter warning him his CCAN must be removed.

Plachner added that it’s been over 90 days since the letter was sent and the CCAN is still sitting there.

In a phone interview April 18 Plachner told the ECA Review several months ago the village received a complaint from the public that Helton had a tarp-covered CCAN on his residential property; the CAO noted a warning letter sent to Helton gave him 90 days to move the storage container.

Plachner also stated it appears no effort has been made to remove the container.

The CAO stated that when Helton was on village council he voted in favour of having two other village residents remove CCANs from their residential property; councillors also conducted a survey at that time and the majority of Morrin residents opposed CCANs in residential areas.

Plachner pointed out even if a CCAN is covered by a tarp it’s still not allowed to be there and added there are other storage options such as wooden sheds that residents can use.

Helton attended the April 17 meeting in person but wasn’t on the agenda as a delegation.

Contacted April 18 by phone, he confirmed he received a warning letter months ago from the Village of Morrin informing him the CCAN on his property must be removed. The former mayor requested a copy of the original complaint against him but he never received it.

Helton noted there has been no enforcement so far but the village’s letter did suggest if the CCAN wasn’t removed, fines may be involved.

A confrontation occurred near the end of the Village of Morrin council meeting related to one of the final business items that night: a closed session.

Readers should note closed session is a private part of the meeting protected by privacy laws where only the CAO, councillors and invited guests may attend. All others, including media, are required to leave the meeting; a resolution must be passed to enter closed session, no other resolutions may be passed unless closed session is ended and councillors re-enter the regular meeting.

Morrin councillors voted to enter closed session at about 8 p.m.

Helton stated in a phone interview April 18 he left the council chambers as expected and stepped into the front entrance area of the village office; readers should note the council chambers and front entrance are adjacent each other separated by a door.

Helton noted he stayed in that area because the council meeting wasn’t over yet.

Helton stated Coun. MacArthur came out of the council chambers and told him councillors were in closed session and that he should leave because the meeting was over.

Helton, however, disagreed, noting the council meeting was not over. Helton stated he told MacArthur the front entrance was a public place to which he was entitled.

At this point Helton stated Mayor Chris Hall and the CAO came out of the council chambers and said much the same thing MacArthur had said to him.

In an April 18 phone call Plachner told the ECA Review Helton was asked to leave the village office for privacy reasons.

“Lorraine asked him very nicely to leave,” said Plachner. She explained the council chamber walls are thin and someone standing in the front entrance area may be able to hear closed session discussions.
Helton disputes that he was eavesdropping but rather waiting in the public area for closed session to end.

When asked if he was eavesdropping Helton said, “Of course not. That’s the public area.” He added that if the public is waiting for closed session to end they shouldn’t be asked to wait on the street.

The CAO confirmed councillors went back into their chambers, exited closed session without discussing anything and adjourned the meeting.

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.