By Cole Parkinson
After Municipal Affairs visited Vauxhall town council in early September, they received their results back for their Municipal Accountability review report.
During council’s regular meeting on November 6, council and administration looked over the positives and negatives pointed out in the report.
Area strengths of the council listed in the report were bylaw procedures, finance, assessment and taxation, elections and emergency management.
While the document mainly highlighted the fact council was in line with the Municipal Government Act, there were some legislative gaps that needed to be addressed.
“We have eight weeks to respond to this report and we can probably have most of these corrected before we would have to respond to it because they are very minor,” said CAO Cris Burns.
In the 81 page document, only eight items were highlighted as needing amendments.
First was naming the municipal office for the Town of Vauxhall, which would be the Town Office located at 223 5 Street North.
“We couldn’t find any records, the oldest record we could find was 1949 or 1950. The town has been in existence longer than that but that’s the oldest record we could find. If they did do it, it’s not on record. It’s just a resolution, it’s very simple,” explained Cris Burns.
Second was around closed meetings and Municipal Affairs recommended to have motions to go into closed should be made with the public in attendance and the appropriate exceptions to disclosure under FOIPP must be cited so the general public is aware of what is being discussed in closed.
While this had never been a focus before, Burns noted their process had changed.
“The closed meeting didn’t have this reporting information but now they do,” he said.
Another on the list was authority to act which is around if resolutions or bylaws are passed in the open public meeting portion.
The specific observation from Municipal Affairs states ‘during the ‘Information and Correspondence’ portion of the meeting an item was added regarding naloxone. The information provided was beneficial for a public meeting; however, the decisions made to have training and supplies provided on behalf of the town should have been approved through a formal resolution of council.’
“We have to talk to Municipal Affairs on this one because I think they thought there was a resolution made but there wasn’t. I think this one was a misunderstanding on their side,” added Burns.
Council meeting minutes had a recommendation from Municipal Affairs which stated ‘the minutes are to be documented in accordance with the requirements of section 208 (1) (a) of the MGA and are to be written without note or comment.’
Amendments to the Town’s bylaw Councillor Code of Conduct was another on the list as Municipal Affairs wanted it to address orientation and other training attendance and defining conflict of interest in a manner that does not conflict with the MGA.
“They made comment on some of the issues with our Councillor Code of Conduct. We took their template and matched it to the Town of Vauxhall to simplify it,” said Burns.
Municipal Affairs also flagged down the Property Tax Bylaw and recommended for moving forward with the municipality must ensure requisitions are to be within the definition of section 326 (1) (a) of the MGA, general municipal tax collected should equal the amount required to be collected in the 2019 annual budget and the town auditor should be consulted to discuss how the municipal levy discrepancy can be addressed and assessment values used throughout the bylaw must be consistent.
Burns stated they would be reaching out to Municipal Affairs to clarify exactly what needs to be done in order to meet legislative requirement.
A change to their Procedural Bylaw was also listed as they were advised for it to have wording around meeting cancellations.
‘The town should amend or replace bylaw 921-17 to address the following items to ensure the bylaw is in compliance with the MGA: council may only cancel a meeting by a formal council resolution passed at a meeting held in public where a quorum is present and if council establishes a committee, it is to be established by bylaw,’ said the Municipal Affairs recommendation.