Estevan's city councillors waded through an agenda filled with a variety of items on Monday night.
Although two councillors, (Rod Beatty and Lynn Chipley) were absent, the remaining team still approved a number of motions including one to head to a plebiscite to determine what the local residents prefer in terms of speed zones within the city.
Earlier on in the meeting, Mayor Gary St. Onge made note that with one new member of the Estevan Police Service being entirely dedicated to traffic bylaw enforcement, the City can now put some bite into their speed zone regulations. He said that just the first day on the job, the dedicated traffic officer issued 48 tickets for a variety of traffic violations.
Council said they will attempt to make it very clear to the local population that reduced speed zone questions will apply only to strictly residential areas and will not include the city's major thoroughfares, business sector or streets that are blended between residential and business. In those areas the speed will remain at 50 km/h. There will be an attempt to reduce the speed in residential areas to 40 km/h though, or at least that will be the question being posed to the electorate when they go to the polls.
Coun. Chris Istace said getting the detailed information out to the public domain will be the challenge and he suggested several non-traditional methods that might be tried to put the plan in front of the public.
The councillors also clearly indicated they were in favour of the non-binding plebiscite vote rather than calling for a referendum.
The councillors also engaged in a short discussion regarding the rejection of a back lane paving project in the 1600 blocks of First and Second Street since 43 of the 77 respondents were against the idea. Istace said that although the lanes will be heavily used by the condominium and apartment dwellers, it was the majority decision. He said he liked the idea of at least putting the question in front of the residents as a forward looking item, rather than having to react after the fact. He said other survey attempts regarding sidewalks are also being proposed. He said he approved this forward-thinking plan “but if the people don't want it, that's their choice.”
When it came to the building permit report, councillors learned that the building pace in the Energy City has slowed a bit, but was still at a robust $17 million to the end of May compared with $23 million for the same period of time in 2011.
On the financial front, the City heard from their auditors MNP LLP that there were no major red flags emerging from a scrutiny of the financial records. Byron Mack of MNP was in attendance to provide some highlights from the previous year's financial report. He pointed out some significant changes and those were directly related to the Spectra Place construction issues. He noted that land for sale had increased in relation to recent subdivision developments and long term debt had increased to $13 million, again in direct parallel with the Spectra Place project.
The accountant also noted that income from grants was down, again a direct reference to the construction of Spectra Place and it was noted that overall land sales were up by about $1 million which included the 15 lots in the Trojan subdivision that came on the market and were snapped up.
On the expense side, Mack said “there was nothing alarming.”
Council also handled some change orders associated with the construction of a new water handling facility on the city's west side with Coun. Roy Ludwig insisting that the City pursue SaskEnergy for $35,000 in compensation that had to be paid out after it was discovered that the gas company's lines had not been buried to the depth that had been indicated on the area maps and drawings. This had cost the City and the contractor some time and materials to compensate for the more shallow natural gas lines.