Big Valley hesitates to approve public washrooms this summer

There may be no public washrooms available in Big Valley this summer. S.Salkeld/ECA Review

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Village of Big Valley hesitated to approve funding for public washrooms this summer, and the expense of cleaning them to meet COVID protocols was a factor. The issue was discussed at the April 22 regular meeting of council.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tracy Mindus reported to councillors on the village’s public washrooms and that the village’s cost, including water and cleaning, was $1,734.47. Mindus stated there is uncertainty surrounding things like tourism because of the pandemic.

Mayor Clark German stated it may be too soon to make a decision on the washrooms and suggested that the question of whether it’s safe or even possible to open the public washrooms be left for a later date.

German added he felt it was important to keep in touch with the community and listen to what the effect of keeping the washrooms closed would have on it. 

Councillors unanimously agreed to keep the washrooms closed and discuss the issue again at a future meeting.

2021 Big Valley election

Mindus reported that the village’s search for an extra hand to help with next fall’s municipal election seems to be over. The CAO reported the interim Public Works Foreman Tammy Rotvik voiced interest in lending a hand as substitute returning officer.

While Mindus herself is the village’s returning officer, it was noted Rotvik also has experience working as a returning officer and if needed, could step in and help conduct the local election.

Councillors unanimously approved Rotvik as substitute returning officer.

Bylaw officer

Mindus reported to councillors on an outstanding item from the minutes, the possible hiring of a bylaw officer for the village. 

She stated that in 2020 Big Valley only saw 10 bylaw infractions and the CAO didn’t see any benefit to contracting the duties out. Instead, she proposed the CAO’s office handle bylaw issues.

The CAO stated if the number of bylaw infractions increased then it may be prudent to have a separate bylaw service. Councillors unanimously approved CAO Mindus as Big Valley’s bylaw officer.

Office closure

Mindus requested councillors pass a resolution supporting the decision to close the village office after a positive COVID test was linked to the building April 16. The office was subsequently closed until April 26 to follow protocols. Councillors passed the resolution as requested.

Public Works help

Councillors discussed hiring seasonal help for the Public Works department, with Mindus noting it looked like the department has a lot of work to do this summer.

Mayor German stated Big Valley hasn’t approved their 2021 budgets yet and asked his peers if they should be hiring staff before finalizing the budget.

The mayor noted a casual worker could be hired soon but that the final decision be done in budget talks. 

Coun. Harry Nibourg stated that summer help is hired to assist the Public Works staff, not replace them. Councillors approved hiring temporary Public Works help to get through the busy time but to include hiring summer help as a topic in budget talks.

Accountability items

Mindus gave an update on the village’s Municipal Accountability Review outstanding items. 

The review is conducted by the provincial government and identifies areas where municipalities may not be meeting certain rules or requirements.

Mayor German noted three items remain outstanding for Big Valley, including assessment roll, assessment review board and publishing policies used to make planning decisions.

Mindus noted there is a deadline of July 2 to address the three areas, but she hoped to have everything wrapped up in a few weeks. Councillors accepted the report for information.

LUB tweaks

Mindus also reported on proposed changes to Big Valley’s Land Use Bylaw (LUB) that were discussed a few months ago, including an urban farm section, RV parking rules and the use of sea can storage units in residential areas.

Mindus noted she is working on those areas and they will return information to a future meeting. Councillors accepted the report for information.

New Public Works foreman

Mindus reported to council the village has hired a new Public Works foreman, Ms. Jessie Shaw, who was scheduled to begin work April 26.

Social media policy

Mindus presented to councillors a draft social media policy for the village, noting the village doesn’t have any policy in place for use of things like. She stated the draft was based on an existing policy used by a different municipality.

Mayor German stated the policy seemed fine except for references that didn’t seem to apply to Big Valley, and suggested the draft’s wording be tweaked to ensure everything only applied to the village. 

Councillors approved the social media policy as amended.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/East Central Alberta Review