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Recovery Committee recommendations highlight council’s weekly meeting

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Recovery Committee recommendations highlight council's weekly meeting

Councillors Vinni, McGrath, and Germain sit on the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

Councillors Keith McGrath, Sheldon Germain, and Allan Vinni were able to show off the extensive work they’ve completed since they were officially assigned to the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee, successfully passing three motions, three first readings, and putting through a development hold bylaw at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Councillors approved a motion requesting administration establish a work space for the recovery task force which will assist the committee, and for municipal staff to be identified for expertise that could be used on the 80-person team. Chief Administrative Officer Marcel Ulliac immediately noted that the fifth floor of Jubilee Centre would serve the task force’s needs. The floor has been undergoing renovations for several months that are nearly complete.

A committee recommendation to expand landfill hours to 24/7, waive residential waste tipping fees until July 31, and bar access to known illegal dumping sites was also pushed through unanimously. The move was touted as a way for the RMWB to expedite the cleanup of wildfire damage, allowing crews to work through the night.

A complimentary bylaw amendment that would relax noise restrictions to allow machinery to operate through the night also passed first reading.

Administration has also been directed to explore the creation of access roads into Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways to provide safer and more efficient traffic flow in and out of neighbourhoods. Councillors added that the consideration should include the possibility of making the access roads permanent thoroughfares for residents.

“We were all lucky that we got out on 63,” said Councillor Tyran Ault. “So when we are examining this, if there are those potential connections… I think they will help a lot.”

Other recommendations that passed first readings were differentiated fees for both the landfill and demolition permits for non-local contractors. Councillor Vinni proposed the measures, the first of which would charge non-residents a landfill fee five-times higher than what residents would pay. For demolition permits, the amendment to the land use bylaw would charge outsiders $2,000 as opposed to just $200 for residents.

The move is meant to give local contractors a pricing advantage when it comes to cleanup work in the municipality. At last week’s meeting Councillor Vinni became visibly angry at the possibility of local companies being priced out of competitiveness against larger firms.

The tone was considerably lighter at this week’s meeting, which opened with each member of council reading out mental health tips for people dealing with a traumatic event. During this, Councillor Phil Meagher started his card by saying “The Toronto Maple Leafs will win the cup…” to gallery laughter.

Council also passed an amended bylaw that would tie the beginning of the rebuild in Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Karen Grimsrud’s safety recommendations. At the beginning of June, Grimsrud recommended the neighbourhoods remain restricted due to elevated levels of dangerous toxins.

The bylaw allows for conditional development permits to be issued to homeowners in the three hardest-hit areas, with a provision that construction doesn’t begin until Grimsrud says the area is safe to live in.

One aspect that was surprisingly absent for some on Tuesday was the notice of motion to repeal the raises councillors voted in favour of last week. Councillor Keith McGrath had told Fort McMurray Matters that he would support such a motion after public backlash, but he wouldn’t be the one to propose it. The motion would have to come from one of the other six councillors who voted in favour of the bylaw that the raises were embedded in, but no notice was offered.

Notes: Emergency Management Director Bob Couture presented a REOC closeout report, featuring thanks for over 4,000 that worked to save and restore the city… Council extended the offsite levy subsidy program for another 2 years… The property tax rate bylaw was delayed for another week after a 5-hour long council meeting… 

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