Pincher Creek town council continued holding its regular council meeting online March 8, the same day provincial health restrictions were eased as part of the government’s stepped strategy to reopen society.
Discussion on the lifted measures and increased number of vaccines led council to wonder when in-person meetings could potentially continue in council chambers.
Administrative manager Lisa Goss said a complete return to in-person meetings was unlikely for the foreseeable future. To eventually accommodate a mixed physical and virtual meeting, council chambers is receiving a technological upgrade.
“We’re looking at the first part of April for the installation [of equipment], so it depends on how long it takes to get everything installed and up and running and all the wrinkles out before we have a wonderful operational council chambers to meet in,” Ms. Goss said.
Returning to even a partial in-person experience, said Coun. Wayne Elliott, would be a welcome change.
“I’m just going to say it’d be nice to get back into the council chambers — this is costing me a fortune in candy,” he joked.
Sweets aside, council approved a number of notable items during the online meeting.
Land use bylaw
Second and third readings for land use bylaw 1547-AK 48 passed unanimously after no concerns were raised during its public hearing.
The bylaw allows the town’s development officer to permit a 15 per cent waiver on a measurable standard. The total area of accessory residential buildings, such as sheds, will also increase from 100 to 150 square feet.
The change was enacted to help the town follow the province’s emphasis on dismissing unnecessary regulations, which helped the town qualify for $432,921 through the Municipal Stimulus Funding Program.
Fine by me
Council also unanimously approved a motion to no longer charge late-return fees at the Pincher Creek and District Municipal Library.
The topic came forward at the request of the library board, which voted to make the change to the library’s bylaw dictating fees for overdue items.
Before officially making the change, the library is required under Alberta’s Libraries Act to forward its bylaws to each participating municipality for approval. The fee change will occur after councils for the MD of Pincher Creek and Village of Cowley give their consent.
The change removes overdue fees for all library items. Instead, once an item is 28 days overdue, the item is declared “lost” and the cardholder will be billed for the price of the item.
Cardholders with bills over $20 will not be allowed to borrow resources until their account is paid, though the library is more than willing to work with patrons in their individual circumstances.
“We’re not going to ban them from the library forever,” said Janice Day, manager of the Pincher Creek library.
“There are instances where people, through no fault of their own, cannot get their books back. If they just talk to us, we will deal with that.”
Letters of support
Council agreed to write two letters of support for the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society for proposed projects at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.
The first project would see electrical upgrades to several of the museum’s heritage buildings to improve heating and lighting in the structures. Providing more heat and light will give the museum more space to hold events during colder parts of the year, along with improving the safety of walkways outside.
The project also proposes a pergola roof be constructed over the café deck, creating additional space for physically distanced seating.
The historical society hopes to fund the project with a $25,000 grant from the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative.
The second project, which is seeking funding through the Community Foundation of Lethbridge, is the ambitious $2 million expansion of Pioneer Place.
The building will provide extra space to house the extensive archive collection and to store equipment, along with providing room for public events and private functions.
The goal is to complete the building by 2028 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the NWMP barn, the first building built in Pincher Creek back in 1878.
If approved, the funding will help pay for the building’s schematics and development plans, both of which are needed for the museum to apply for other grants.
A third letter of support was approved for the Allied Arts Council, which also hopes to secure funding through the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for an outdoor amphitheatre.
The proposed amphitheatre would be built on the Lebel Mansion’s east lawn, next to the Oldman Rose Garden, and would help satisfy a need within the community for a performance venue that could maintain Covid-19 health recommendations.
The next regular council meeting will be held online Monday, April 12, at 6 p.m.
Links to the meeting agenda and online conference call are available at www.pinchercreek.ca.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze