Smaller council proposed

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

How many members should comprise the Town of McLennan council?

It is a question council and the public will have plenty of time to debate over the next few weeks.

At its March 11 meeting, council debated a proposal to reduce the number of members on council to five from the current seven (mayor and six councillors). Council eventually passed a motion to drop one councillor and proceed with a six-member council.

However, after the meeting, CAO Lorraine Willier discovered council cannot have an even number of council members. After checking, Willier received a phone call from a municipal advisor from Alberta Municipal Affairs, advising in accordance with Section 143(1) of the Municipal Government Act, council can only pass a bylaw specifying an odd number of members on council.

The question arose of how the neighbouring M.D. of Smoky River can have an even number of council members: six. Apparently, since the M.D. has had six members serving for a long time, they are “grandfathered” in and are permitted to still operate with six.

McLennan council must now bring back the matter at its April 8 meeting. The good news is, it gives the public even more chance to provide input. In any case, by law, the decision to change the number of councillors must go to a public hearing. The delay gives the public more time to provide input.

At the meeting, council had a long debate on the matter and whether nor not to elect the mayor from council. Mayor Jason Doris noted McLennan has had recent interest in candidates putting their names forward during municipal elections. Such is not the case for many towns and villages of similar size.

Council examined a chart showing the number of members on other councils and found they
had the most. Neighboring Falher is larger in population and has five members, and so is much larger Sexsmith, who is debating going down to five.

Willier’s recommendation to council was to reduce to five members, which would save about $4,500 each year. The proposed bylaw was prepared for council based on five members.

“Is it worth it?” asked Council Marie-Anne Jones.

“It’s up to you,” replied Willier.

Council noted any decrease in council members would result in a larger workload (more meetings, for example) for the remaining members.

“Are we overkill (too many councillors) compared to some places?” asked Doris.

“Overkill might be the wrong word.”

Councillor Sue Delaurier moved to reduce to an elected mayor and five councillors. Her motion passed with only Doris opposing.

“I honestly think we can go down two,” he replied.

“The whole idea is for cutting costs,” Doris added. “This is one way of saving money.”

Earlier, council also noted some defeated candidates for mayor would make good councillors. Elected a mayor from within council would solve that problem.

Debate began with Jones saying she liked the idea of electing a mayor from within council and avoiding the problem of good candidates losing an election for mayor.

“They’d (some losing candidates) be excellent on council,” she said.

However, she also noted there was the potential for “favouritism” on council affecting the vote.

“I don’t agree with it,” said Councillor Darlene Payou.

Delaurier offered another thought.

“Sitting around the table, maybe nobody wants to be mayor,” she noted. “I’m perfectly happy being a councillor. My vote would be to stay elected.”

“There are pros and cons to both sides,” noted Doris.

A vote to elect the mayor from with council was defeated unanimously.

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