By Kathy Bly
For the Sunny South News
Town approves three-year sustainability plan
At last Monday’s council meeting, the final one for 2015, Picture Butte town council approved the 2016-2019 Municipal Sustainability Plan.
Larry Davidson, chief administrative officer (CAO), reviewed the plan with council seeking clarification on a number of points covered in the plan. It was approved with the changes, as discussed during the meeting. As part of the plan, the town adopted a vision statement that reads, “Providing sustainable growth that results in a safe, vibrant and inclusive community while embracing our heritage.” The mission statement for the town reads, “By serving Picture Butte, town council will continually strive to ensure a thriving and vibrant community that improves the lives of town residents.”
Under the heading of retaining town staff, Davidson also sought clarification from council noting the plan currently reads the town will offer non-monetary incentives that will retain and attract high quality staff.
“You’re just going to look at the big picture,” he said.
Council agreed it wanted to stay with the focus as outlined in the plan, which also calls for a compensation survey. Under volunteerism, council would like to see an increase in the number of volunteers in the community but Davidson said that is not a measureable item for the town, as the volunteers serve with community organizations, not the town.
Instead, council agreed to work with community organizations to see what the town can do to help support their efforts in Picture Butte.
There was also some discussion at the council table focused on how the town communicates with residents.
Davidson spoke in favour of the town hosting a series of Community Cafes throughout the year that involve members of council and the public.
“We get more feedback when we sit and meet with the public,” said Mayor Wendy Jones, speaking in favour of a more informal approach to such meetings.
A town newsletter, community surveys and a volunteer e-mail contact list for those who want to be notified of upcoming events was also included under the communication heading.
Write-offs for 2015
Town council approved just over $13,000 in write-offs covering unpaid receivables, as part of the ambulance billing and collections process.
Under the town policy, accounts that have been with a collection agency for more than six months are presented to council for permission to be written off.
Patrick Lyster, director of corporate services, said he is cleaning up some old accounts and with some new procedures and policies in place, the number of unpaid accounts receivables has been on the decline for 2015. “The outstanding accounts have been steadily dropping,” he said.
Administrative salary increase
Council has approved a three per cent salary increase for non-unionized staff.
Davidson said the collective agreement for the unionized staff includes a three per cent increase come Jan. 1, 2016. As per the 2016 interim budget, council also approved the same increase for administrative staff.
He noted, according to the latest information available, Alberta’s rate of inflation is currently 1.4 per cent, which means the three per cent increase will provide a slight overall increase for staff.
Bylaw contract renewed
The Town of Picture Butte’s agreement with the Town of Coalhurst for bylaw enforcement services has been renewed for another year.
The initial agreement between the two municipalities was originally approved for a three-year term, which ended Dec. 31, 2013 but it has been extended on a yearly basis since then.
This time around the extension includes a one per cent cost of living wage increase for the bylaw enforcement officer.
Under the current contract, Picture Butte receives bylaw enforcement 1.5 days per week.
Davidson said he would like to see that increase to two days per week, as half a day doesn’t give much coverage when travel is factored in.
Coun. Henry de Kok suggested the town consider going with three days over two weeks, one day one week and two days the next in order to make better use of the 1.5 days covered under the contract.
Council approved a new LAPP, Local Authorities Pension Plan, policy during the council meeting and also approved a new iPad usage policy for town council.
In his report to council, Davidson noted a request for proposals has gone out on the remaining unsold CPR land in Picture Butte with a deadline of Jan. 15, 2016. He also noted a request for proposals has also gone out for the infrastructure assessment project, which also closes Jan. 15. His report also noted the Fortis franchise fee increase, requested by the town, moving up from eight per cent to 10 per cent, has been approved and will be effective Jan. 1, 2016.