Weyburn’s Mayor Debra Button is seeking to expand her sphere of influence as a politician, as she announced her intentions to seek the chair of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) at their convention in early February.
She made the announcement at Monday evening’s council meeting, noting she has the unanimous support of city council, and the support of the caucus of city mayors, although noting two mayors were not present at last week’s meeting, the mayors of Saskatoon and Lloydminster.
Mayor Button said there are four main issues that she wants to address in the role of chair of SUMA, including infrastructure; the revenue-sharing grant; housing; and environmental challenges for local governments.
“Each of these issues is large and represent significant challenges for governments at all levels, but nowhere is that more evident than on the municipal scene,” said the mayor, citing her involvement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) over the past three years as helping to give her understanding of the issues facing municipalities.
She also pointed to her international experience, representing FCM to the Ukraine, helping civic leaders explore common issues and challenges, and also noted the local challenges Weyburn has faced.
“We’ve faced floods; we’ve dealt with water treatment issues; we took the challenge of housing supply in a rapidly growing community head on.
These are issues SUMA members face every day, and I hope to share the Weyburn experience in dealing with these challenges with other local leaders by becoming SUMA’s president,” she said.
The mayor noted she has worked with all levels of government in her time as mayor, now in her third term, and said, “I hope the leaders of Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities will see me as a positive option to head the organization that is their primary voice at the provincial level.”
She admits she doesn’t know if anyone else will be putting their name forward for the president’s chair, but noted that the mayors’ caucus is behind her and won’t contest her candidacy. If she is successful in her bid to lead the provincial association of urban municipalities, she will follow in the footsteps of former mayor Don Schlosser, who also was head of SUMA for a term.
Mayor Button said Schlosser did a good job as SUMA president, saying he “reflected well on Weyburn”.
As far as whether it will interfere with her mayoral duties, she said SUMA has four meetings a year, and the executive meets via SKYPE once a month, plus she is only a one-hour drive from Regina if she needs to go in to meet government officials.
“I’m always up for a challenge, and this is a huge challenge for me,” she said. “I’m excited to see how this is going to roll out.”
The City of Weyburn will continue with its snow removal policies as they have been set down, and will not be changing them in spite of some complaints over covering sidewalks on streets where there is no boulevard.
The city set down their snow removal policies in writing at Monday’s meeting, noting they have not been changed, merely set down on paper.
For priority street routes, these streets will be graded first, with initial clearing to occur within eight hours of the end of a storm; secondary streets will be done after priority routes are done, with initial clearing to be done within 18 hours after the end of a storm; and on residential streets, the standard is “to maintain a compacted, drivable snow-packed surface. A bare pavement surface is very difficult to maintain during an average winter, due to the extent and narrowness of residential streets.”
The policy to windrow snow onto sidewalks in subdivisions where there is a combined curb and sidewalk with no boulevard will be maintained.
“This has been controversial in the past, however to maintain these clearances, there is no viable option other than prohibiting street parking entirely during winter months,” says the policy.
City manager Bob Smith added the explanation that on these streets, if the snow was cleared just to the side of the streets without covering the sidewalks, there would be a windrow of five or six feet on the side of the street, and parking would be eliminated by how narrow the streets would become as a result.
“Council decided on this as looking at the lesser of two evils,” he said. “It’s not that we can’t do it, but nobody on that street would be able to park in front of their house. It’s not a matter of doing it to upset people; there’s a reason for it.”
He pointed out the only other way to do it would be to pick up the snow, and this would mean having three times the amount of equipment and staffing to handle, for snow clearing that only takes place three or four times a year in most years.
A meeting was held with Canada Post letter carriers over concerns for their safety, he added. “We’ve resolved some of the issues by working with them,” said Smith.
The policy, along with a city map showing the priority routes, can be found on the city’s website.
The City of Weyburn will take some time to work with Minard’s Leisure World to amend a zoning bylaw to allow up to 150 RVs on a seasonal basis, on some land the company bought from the city recently.
After buying land along Government Road South and Ninth Avenue, the company applied to rezone the land from residential semi-detached, or R2, to Highway Commercial by contract, so as to allow for the display of RVs and of manufactured and mobile homes.
The zoning with the wording “by contract” means it won’t be zoned as full Highway Commercial, explained Martino Verhaeghe, director of planning and development for the City of Weyburn.
A bylaw amendment had come up at Monday’s council meeting, but set a limit of 42 units as a maximum on this property.
Speaking to council on the question, Gene Minard said when they bought this land from the city, there was no mention at any time of this limit of 42 units; this arose later when discussions began on rezoning the property.
The council also received a letter from a neighbour, who objected to losing the view to the west from their home on Ninth Avenue, and also the constricted access to their property by use of the back laneway because of the placement of camper units on the property.
Minard didn’t apologize for the loss of the view, pointing out that there would’ve been housing built on that land if they hadn’t bought it for their company. As for the constricted access to the laneway, he conceded that they would be able to move their campers so as to allow better use of the laneway by the neighbour.
Verhaeghe told council they could adjust the bylaw to allow more than the limit of 42, but noted that it would have to be readvertised since this would increase the intensity of the use of the land.
Council did defeat the bylaw as worded, and after some discussion about what the number allowed could be, administration was directed to bring the bylaw back on Jan. 14 with the noted changes; this was passed by a 4-2 vote.
The bylaw to change the status of the Weyburn Arts Council into a subcommittee of the Leisure Services Commission was introduced on Monday, and will put their two employees under the direction of Mathew Warren, director of Leisure Services.
The curator’s position, currently filled by Ron Ror, which looks after exhibitions and receptions, and oversees the City of Weyburn’s Permanent Art Collection, will now have the Signal Hill Arts Centre added to his responsibilities.
The Arts and Cultural director, currently filled by Alice Neufeld, will focus on planning, developing, promoting and administering the civic arts and cultural programs.
The stated reason for the amalgamation “is to provide the Weyburn Arts Council with more administrative and budgetary support, greater funding opportunities, and to unify the arts and culture opportunities currently offered, to better serve residents of Weyburn.”