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Land use, safety code, and HR bylaws approved

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council approved all bylaws that came back to them for approval at the regular council meeting on June 16.

Mayor Marcel Michaels then brought forward a discussion item around Hinton’s third bylaw officer position, which prompted a request for an information report on the impacts of removing the position from the Town.

Council approves Land Use Bylaw

Council gave all three readings for Land Use Bylaw (LUB) 1088-14. LUB amendments include establishing the director of development services as a Planning Authority for the municipality to exercise subdivision and development powers and designate the duties to any other person.

These authorities must be provided to exercise subdivision and development powers and perform duties on behalf of the municipality, according to the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Council’s authorization of the director of development services with the required delegation authority provides flexibility to delegate duties where necessary to ensure sustainability and to provide more efficient customer service.

Peter Vana, director of development services, stated that anyone delegated that authority is required to follow policies and procedures to ensure consistency of service.

According to administration’s report, this provides Council with assurance that the municipality is prepared to support customers during difficult conditions such as the pandemic where staffing levels have been negatively affected through layoffs, sick leaves, and shifting workloads. 

Safety Codes Permit Bylaw approved

The Safety Codes Permit Bylaw 1148 is necessary for the Town of Hinton becoming an accredited Municipality for Safety Codes Services and establishing an Administrative function for permit sales and file administration.

Interim CAO Emily Olsen stated that bylaw 1148 establishes the application procedure.

All inspections for all disciplines will be performed through a contract with an accredited agency. The readings enable the Town to begin the new service by Aug. 1, 2020 and to obtain the projected revenues expressed to Council during the initial presentation.

Vana added that Hinton has taken the model that many municipalities use as a service model when contracting out to an agency.  Services of a consultant have been retained to craft a bylaw that deals with all requirements of becoming an agency.

Development Services Fees Bylaw passed

The Development Services Fees Bylaw 1104-3 provides a framework for fees and charges related to the town providing safety code services as an accredited agency.

This bylaw establishes fees for permits issued according to the Safety Codes Act, the Permit Regulations, and the Town of Hinton’s Quality Management Plan. 

Coun. Dewly Nelson added that if adjustments need to be made in the future to fees, it would be an easy amendment. 

The fees in this bylaw are consistent with those across other jurisdictions and what other agencies charge, said Vana.

Amendments to the Development Services Fees Bylaw 1104 include safety codes fees for the disciplines of Building, Gas, Electrical, Plumbing, and Private Sewage.

The Town of Hinton Protective Services Department is already accredited under the Safety Codes Act in the Fire discipline and will be incorporated into the new Town Quality Management Plan for the noted disciplines. 

Employment Principles Policy approved

The Employment Principles Policy HR-1905 was the first of four policies before council to support cleaning up outdated and noncompliant human resource policies. 

Olsen stated that the Town also has three Council approved Policies regarding Employee Principals, all three of which are outdated and in need of revision.

These Policies do not reflect MGA requirements, current legislative requirements, or best practice.

The revised Policy HR-1905 outlines these new legislative requirements. 

The revised guiding Policy will set standards, protect employees, and ensure the Town follows the due diligence required to protect the organization from liability, stated the report.

The updated Policy will help prevent a contravention of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which can apply a remedy as high as $100,000, and of Alberta Employment Standards, which can apply Administrative penalties ranging from $500 to $6,000, according to the report from administration.

The Town stated that having a Policy including the Town’s values of equal employment opportunities will be a useful attraction and retention tool and could reduce recruitment and staff turnover costs.

The average turnover rate in 2019 was 23 per cent.

Employee Relations Policy approved

The Employee Relations Policy HR-1904 ensures employees are treated in a manner that is fair and consistent, stated CAO Olsen.

The policy outlines employee relation practices and provides employees with knowledge on organizational practices, expectations, and processes.

It also sets consistent standards, improves communication, reduces conflict, and improves efficiencies, Olsen stated.

Strong parameters around employee relations helps to prevent a contravention of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which can apply a remedy as high as $100,000, and of Alberta Employment Standards, which can apply Administrative penalties ranging from $500 to $6,000, according to the report from administration.

The report also stated that this policy could positively impact the Town’s organizational culture as there has been an average of six harassment investigations per year in the past two years, which are expensive and time consuming.

Benefit Principles Policy approved

Benefits Principles Policy HR-1903 captures the current processes for introducing or modifying benefit plans or programs followed by the Town, stated Olsen.

The policy ensures that long-term cost implications and planning considerations are factored into organizational benefit decisions and outlines a set of principles to govern the analysis required, Olsen continued.

Benefits Principles Policy HR-1903 does not result in changes to current practices, but reflects current processes that the Town already follows.

Pay Principles Policy approved

Before approval, council amended a section within the Pay Principles Policy HR-1902 to state that the CAO must address budget impacts of any changes with council by seeking approval through a Request for Decision instead of through an Administrative Report or the Annual Budget Process.

Prior to the amendment, Olsen explained that the salary grid itself was approved through the budgetary process.

Nelson said he couldn’t recall formally approving the grid as part of the budget process but only approving the dollar amount for human resources.

“There’s to me some ambiguity around the ability for the grid to change and then be presented to council as a report,” Nelson said.

Nikiea Hope, human resources manager, said any adjustments made to the grid with implications to future budget years would have to be approved by council. 

Coun. Ryan Maguhn added that having the presentation of that grid on an annual basis as part of the budget process ensures it doesn’t get lost in the budget documents and offers some comfort.

The Pay Principles Policy is required to ensure legislative requirements such as equal pay are being met.

Contravention of these standards can result in penalties to the organization as high as $100,000, according to the report from administration.

According to the town, a Pay Principles Policy also impacts the Town’s ability to attract and retain competent employees by showing how their pay will be administered when they perform their jobs competently. 

Any Administrative decision regarding pay which would impact the Budget is still subject to Council approval.

Council rescinded Personnel Policy – Salaried Staff 027, Personnel Policy – Salaried Employees 060, and Personnel Policy General 017.

Council re-appoints member for 2020 Regional Assessment Review Board

Earlier in 2020, Council appointed a staff member as the Designated Clerk for the West Yellowhead Regional Assessment Review Board, but that employee no longer works for the Town of Hinton.

Council approved that Trisha Papke be appointed instead for a one-year term starting June 16, 2020.

Papke from Edson agreed to support the Town of Hinton through this role in 2020 since Hinton has no other staff currently certified to perform this function.

The Specialized Municipality of Jasper, the Town of Edson, and the Town of Hinton make up the  Inter-Municipal Assessment Review Board.

A Council must by bylaw establish a Local Assessment Review Board and a Composite Assessment Review Board.

Action Pending List Approved

Council approved the action pending list, including amendments regarding proposed dates for completion of items, the consolidation of items relating to fees and charges for recreation and park spaces, as well as clarification and a new completion date provided to the additional parking lot on Robb road. 

All items related to the recreation centre were included as status quo with no changes.

Coun. JoAnn Race questioned administration on whether town benches that are removed will be replaced in the same locations.

Olsen explained the first step is to complete the design and construction standards of these benches.

The exact location of the benches is still unknown, administration said.

Nelson said that while benches of high value should be replaced, those in low traffic locations could be removed and used as a cost saving measure. 

Information report requested for third bylaw officer position

Mayor Marcel Michaels brought forward a discussion item regarding the vacant peace officer position and questioned whether the Town could potentially remove this position as a cost saving measure.

Hope stated that many applications have been received in the hiring process.

Race questioned what the service level impact would be of removing the position.

Olsen explained there would be a definite impact, including a slower response time and reduced services.

“This would bring a lot of challenges back to department,” said Todd Martens, protective services manager of Hinton.

“Having two individuals only, we struggle with overtime, sick coverage, holidays, and burnout. Because of the burnout we were always replacing the CPO’s almost yearly.”

Martens added that adding the third position in the first place was to ease those issues the department and officers faced.

He did not reccomend dropping down to two officers especially during summer months and as the pandemic is slowing down.

Coun. Tyler Waugh mentioned that when council added the third position he wanted to have a service level discussion, and that now may be a good opportunity to have that discussion.

“I think we need to have a full discussion for the public just about the services that are offered, the timelines, and what impacts having two people would have,” Waugh said.

Council directed administration to provide an information report on service level and financial impacts of the bylaw services department at the standing committee meeting on July 14.

In the meantime, administration will keep the position of peace officer level one open.