Mock emergency exercise successful
Following the town-wide mock wildfire emergency exercise last week, Banff Fire Chief Silvio Adamo briefed council on the successful training and public engagement. The May 8 exercise brought together 150 staff from the Town of Banff, Parks Canada, firefighters, the provincial government, local agencies, businesses and partners to deal with a scenario of a large wildfire approaching the town from the west. In addition to testing system readiness, just under 40 personnel visited 1,300 homes on the south side of the river to deliver evacuation guides and calculate how long it would take to evacuate everyone from that area across the one vehicle bridge. Adamo said in the event of an emergency, residents and visitors could be evacuated from the south side in four hours. The event was also used to help promote the Town of Banff’s emergency alert system that anyone can sign up for a text or email message when an emergency is underway. There was a 50% increase in the number of subscriptions to the service, which is available at http://banff.ca/alert.
Special meeting for tax rate bylaw
Council has set a special meeting on Thursday, May 16, at 8:30 a.m. to discuss third reading of the tax rate bylaw. The provincial government has advised municipalities that due to delays caused by the recent election, the 2019 provincial budget will not be tabled until this fall. Therefore, the exact 2019 education tax requisition will not be known until the provincial budget has been finalized. Until the new requisition is calculated, municipalities will continue to be invoiced by the province based on the 2018 provincial property tax requisition. The education tax is collected by municipalities on behalf of the province, and is not put towards municipal services. The tax rate will be determined at the third reading of the bylaw.
Property taxes represent 40% of revenue needed to pay for all Banff services and levels of service determined in the operating budget, set in January 2019. Property taxes help pay for municipal infrastructure and services such as firefighters, police, transit, snow clearing, road maintenance, housing initiatives, the library, parks, community and settlement services, and about 60 other programs and services.
Town Council has approved a municipal property tax increase of 6.14%, which includes a 1.72% increase in education taxes for the Province of Alberta, a 0.08% increase for Bow Valley Regional Housing, an inflationary increase of 1.9% for the cost of materials and labour, and 3% for new programs and services.
The typical residential dwelling unit (assessed value of $399,200) is estimated to see an increase of approximately $119 in 2019, or an increase of almost $10 per month for property owners on the monthly payment plan, for municipal and provincial property tax combined.
Council meetings will be live streamed
Council approved a new policy to record and live stream council meetings. The purpose of video streaming, recording and publishing video of meetings is to enhance the transparency of Town of Banff decisions, and increase the potential for public involvement in the issues that affect the community. Governance and Finance Committee meetings, as well as public hearings, will also be recorded and broadcast. Council meeting minutes will remain the official record of the meeting, and as such meetings will not be delayed or postponed due to any technical issues. Recordings will be accessible to the public on the Town’s website for four years from the date of the meeting to align with council’s term of service. Proper signage will be installed to inform the public that meetings are being recorded as well as an indicator sign or light to identify when the system is recording in council chambers. The Town will purchase the software system, test in June, and first trials will proceed in July and August.
Education program for Land Use Bylaw
Council approved a Land Use Bylaw education program to help create learning opportunities for the community around development permitted by the bylaw. The program is intended to help residents, builders and developers better understand which developments are permitted and which are not, and the processes for review and approval. The program will include a plain language information guide about the Land Use Bylaw, a media campaign, and a series of free courses on topics such as specific requirements in the national park, the Land Use Bylaw overview, and how people can be involved in a development process. Banff has a unique planning context compared to other Alberta municipalities, due to federal requirements for development within a national park. Council approved a maximum of $5,000 for the program. The education program is complemented by new projects to enhance the online tools that help residents learn about development applications, and a new sign and postcard notification program to alert neighbouring properties about development proposals.
Council to review columbarium project
Council received a briefing on a potential capital project to create a municipal columbarium in the heritage substation building in the Old Banff Cemetery. The project would preserve the heritage value of the substation building, while redesigning the structure for storage of cremated human remains. The project would also add a scattering garden for cremated ashes. The concept was first raised in 2011 and was brought back to Council since the desire for cremation, rather than traditional burials, is increasing. The construction costs and ongoing maintenance of the building and garden would be covered by fee for buying space or using the garden. Council directed Administration to bring the project to 2020 Service Review and Budget Deliberations in November, for consideration for subsequent years.