Three delegations took up much of the March 21, meeting for Vermilion Town Council. Council witnessed presentations by James MacDonald (and virtually by board chair Vicky Lefebvre) with the Northern Lights Library System (NLLS), virtually by Ken Spangler with Alberta Broadband Networks, and Erwin Warkentin with the Rotary Club of Vermilion.
“In your community last year we issued 4,600 e-books 2,300 e-audio books, and 11,145 books delivered by a van run every week which is approximately $779, 000 in value,” said MacDonald.
They actually borrow more he said to circulate through the county, as well as provide internet services, deliver programming, offer 3D printing, steam kits, etc.
In answer to concerns from a previous council meeting regarding the population used to calculate library funding, he said, “Your library received the grant at a population of 5,405 as well, so you are paying out the levy at the same rate you are getting the grant on.”
The NLLS had been advocating for change for years, so he was happy to note that the provincial government announced on March 1, that they would move from using 2016 population data to using 2019 data (giving Vermilion a population of 4,150 and would be applicable in 2024).
Some councilors were still concerned and noted Statistics Canada’s 2021 population for Vermilion of 3,948 saying they did not want to pay for more residents than they actually had.
As for the broadband update, Spangler said the new network launched in February is fully operational, and they completed over 505 residential drops. Primus will begin marketing by getting in touch with the town’s leadership team, doing a door-to-door campaign, create messaging for local newspapers and online community pages, and by being present in the community.
“Despite some misinformation online, we are getting some really good responses from commercial customers as well as a few residential customers,” said Spangler.
“It was a huge undertaking with a lot of manpower; seven days a week there was a lot of activity. Our hotels and restaurants were busy, and there were a lot of good spin-offs from this project,” said Councillor Pulyk.
When asked about the competition, he said Shaw had a coaxial hybrid system that lacked the speed and bandwidth they can offer; and Telus had low rates but he said they don’t have the consistency of their network. They expect to see pushback for the next six months but want to embrace the community and educate people on how they can invest in the Town of Vermilion.
When asked about the brine line strike and whether they would support the town in recouping some of the financial costs as it was no fault of their own, he said he did not have all of the information but would do a deep dive on the situation to find out.
Regarding the Rotary Club, Warkentin put forward a request for a letter of support from council to apply for a grant (potentially in June) that would fund toddler playground equipment at the Hospital Hill Park.
“We’ve put forward $50,000 of our own funds, and want to make a better presentation to the provincial government. I think that the town’s strength is its service clubs and we know we’re not the only one. We also want to thank Sarah Paterson on her tremendous support of this project,” said Warkentin.
Councillor Pulyk congratulated him on pursuing the project saying it is a well-used area. He also noted that if different clubs had other ideas, they should contact the town as they had just been discussing an opportunity prior to the meeting. Councillor Rayment said, “I know as someone with small children there aren’t many places in town to take them with equipment that is suited to them.”
Giving hope for more communication, council discussed to potentially change the current public commentary session procedures. Deputy Mayor Paul Conlon suggested they increase the individual time limits from two minutes to four minutes.
“This goes back to my 4-H public speaking days; 4 – 6 min is a proper speech. It seems kind of impromptu to have only two minutes. As much as they wish to address us, it seems to be a recurring issue that residents are pressed for time.”
Councillor Pulyk thought four minutes would be fair, and suggested they remove the 15-minute overall time limit keeping the session open until there were no more speakers.
“Honestly if this room was full, we are here for the public and the public are entitled to express their views and opinions. If it takes us all night, so be it; that’s why we are here,” said Pulyk.
Councillor Snow agreed but suggested they obtain the standards from other communities and councils before going ahead with a decision.
Council noted an investment policy update for 2023 and Brian Leibel verified there was no additional risk; and council accepted the policy with a friendly amendment to update the policy every three years.
Deputy Mayor Paul Conlon noted that the town is potentially looking at relocating the house on the Orphan Well site (in South Brennan) to a different lot. If they are able to, the current yard site could become green space, and the house would then be able to be sold. Kevin Lucas verified there is no safety hazard, but that the Orphan Wells Organization nor the Town are in the rental business, so they are looking at creative ways to not tear a house down and make it a future dwelling for another family.
Council and administration noted the retirement of Alan Rustad; as well as the move of Community Services Director, Sarah Paterson.
Councillor Rayment said, “Good luck in your future endeavours; all the best with living in B.C. We will definitely miss you.”
“I very much enjoyed my time here. Vermilion is an amazing community; very spirited. It’s been a fantastic place to work; I can’t say enough good things about the staff and community members,” said Paterson.