By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Coaldale will be continuing it’s ban on VLT’s after council reviewed the results of the plebiscite.
During their regular Oct. 30 meeting, Coaldale Town council was presented with the results of the VLT plebiscite, with administration asking how they would like to proceed.
VLT’s were banned in the town after a plebiscite held in 1998 was in favour of banning then. The question was resurrected in November 2016, when a local business approached council to request that they reverse the ban.
At the end of 2016, a poll was taken of 710 random Coaldale residents, the results of which were available to council in January 2017.
The survey results presented to council included answers of two questions: If the next civic election asks a question with only two options, (1) allow Video Lottery Terminals, commonly known as VLTs in Coaldale or (2) prohibit Video Lottery Terminals, commonly known as VLTs from Coaldale, which option would you vote for?
The results showed 69 per cent of respondents indicated they would vote to allow VLTs in Coaldale; while 20 per cent of respondents indicated they would vote to prohibit VLTs in Coaldale; and 12 per cent said they weren’t sure or were undecided. The second question, which was more general in order to gauge the overall feelings of residents toward VLTs in the community, asked: If Coaldale brought back VLTs in its community, would you be in favour or opposed to that decision? The results showed 75 per cent would be in favour, while 22 per cent said they would be opposed, and three per cent said they were unsure or undecided.
Council then passed first reading of a bill to strike down the ban in February, which had passed 4-2, with Coun. Bill Chapman and Coun. Jacen Abrey voting against. Coun. Roger Hohm was absent from that meeting. In March, council decided to hold a plebiscite to coincide with the municipal election.
The plebiscite asked “Do you agree that Town Council should pass a bylaw to allow for the installation, operation and use of video lottery terminals (VLT’s) within the Town of Coaldale?”.
The result of the plebiscite were in favour of continuing with the ban. In total, 1,013 people, or 50.29 per cent, were in favour of council not passing the bylaw, while 1,000 people, or 49.71 per cent, were in favour of the bylaw.
Administration presented three options for council to consider:
• That council accept the results of the plebiscite question in reference to the proposed reintroduction of VLT’s to Coaldale – that the Town Council not pass a bylaw to allow for the installation, operation and use of video lottery terminals (VLT’s) within the Town of Coaldale. Further, that Council move to rescind first reading of Bylaw 721-C-02-17 such that the current prohibition of VLT’s in Coaldale remain in full force and effect.
• That council direct administration to bring back Bylaw 721-C-02-17 for second and third reading for the reintroduction of VLT’s in Coaldale.
• That council direct administration to bring back more information before making a decision with respect to this matter.
Chapman, who had voted against the first reading of the bylaw, put forth the motion for the first option administration had presented, to accept the plebiscite and not reintroduce VLT’s into the town.
Although Coaldale has banned VLT’s, the town still receives money from gaming funds, which has been used to finance projects such as the spray park and playgrounds.
One concern about the ban was whether or not the town would continue to receive those funds, should the ban continue.
Hohm brought up the payments during the meeting, stating that his question “came from other sources, not myself”, asking council that since they voted against VLT’s, should they still receive the money.
“Is it this town’s decision then that we should be sending a letter to the province of Alberta, requesting that no support from lottery funds be supported to any private or town group, within the town of Coaldale,” said Hohm.
“Because if we’re saying we don’t want VLT’s, should we be accepting the blood money from somebody else?
“It has nothing to do with this, but it is a question that’s floating amongst the community.”
“I think, your worship, we do have to accept the results of the plebiscite question,” said Chapman, addressing Mayor Kim Craig.
“So we have to pass the first point.”
Chapman added that council does not have to pass a second or third reading of a bylaw.
Council voted for the first motion in a six-one split. Coun. Henry ‘Butch’ Pauls voted against the motion.
Craig called Hohm’s question regarding gambling funds a “weightier question” to have.
Council was informed that Rocky Mountain house voted down a similar plebiscite in 2012, and that did not effect their grants opportunities with the province.
Council also confirmed their policy to record votes.