Council seeks to update outdated bylaws

“This, to me, paints them (renters) as second class citizens.” Tim Falkiner, Town Councillor

Administration and council have made it a priority to improve the Town of Ponoka’s bylaws and as planners go through the list, they are finding gaps in the town’s rules.

All three bylaws that passed second reading during the regular meeting May 27 relate to infrastructure in the Town of Ponoka. Council passed second reading to give residents a chance to provide feedback into the bylaws.

The first bylaw discussed was the Storm Sewer and Storm Drainage Services bylaw, which the town does not have. These regulations are aimed at giving the town an opportunity to deal with rule breakers.

“There’s obviously some teeth in it,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett.

The 23-page document establishes guidelines for inspections and decision-making processes surrounding land development. It also tackles minimum and maximum criteria with regard to design and construction of drainage structures.

The bylaw also establishes fines for groups or individuals that contravene its rules. Minimum fines for offences such as releasing prohibited materials in the sewer lines start at $500, with specific penalties costing upwards of $3,000. The full list of fines can be found at www.ponoka.ca under Town Hall. Look for the May 27 town council agenda.

Questions on utility services

The second bylaw was called Utility Services. This 39-page document defines the roles of the Town of Ponoka and property owners with regard to operational efficiency and water supply integrity.

Coun. Tim Falkiner took issue with utility bill penalties for people who rent a home. The third item in the frequently asked questions states that utility services cannot be held in a renter’s name but in the property owner.

“This, to me, paints them (renters) as second class citizens,” said Falkiner.

He suggests utility bills can be used to build credit and this would make that a challenge.

Coun. Teri Underhill disagreed. She suggested that utility bills are a small part of establishing credit. She feels tenants would be better off to apply for a credit card.

Town administration cancels approximately $12,000 per year in neglected utility bill payments, explained acting CAO Betty Quinlan and she believed there are companies that use similar rules. This bylaw would help alleviate the loss in revenue.

Dave McPhee, director of operations and property services, added that this bylaw was last changed in 1991 and he feels council needs to stay up to date with current government rules, which are reviewed every five years.

Hydrants and fire lines

The third bylaw that passed second reading is called Hydrants and Private Fire Lines, which enables the town to regulate fire hydrants and private fire lines.

McPhee said the town does not have a bylaw dealing with this issue.

The bylaw covers water management for businesses or homes that tie into the town’s water line. It also deals with annual inspections, maintenance and distribution of water.

Emergency management plan approved

Council approved third reading of the Municipal Emergency Management plan that clarifies how neighbouring towns work together in the event of a state of emergency.

Councillors have already begun training in the Incident Command System program, which provides tools for people in emergency situations. Coun. Marc Yaworski was pleased with the report as he feels it puts the Town of Ponoka in a position of readiness should a state of emergency be declared. Coun. Loanna Gulka suggested councils can no longer use the excuse that they did not know what to do, especially considering they are in a leadership role.

Councillors also adopted a Quality Management Plan (QMP) that sets uniform guidelines for building, electrical, plumbing and gas services. It also ensures compliance with Safety Codes of Alberta.

The next review for the QMP is March 31, 2015 and puts the town on queue for reviews, which are supposed to occur every three years.