By Spencer Hall, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Rocky Mountain Goat
Valemount council is considering a new bylaw that looks to make Village operations more efficient and give staff a better understanding of what they have the approval to do.
Council approved the Officer Designation and Delegation of Authority bylaw’s first and second reading at its August 22nd meeting and scheduled a committee of the whole on Aug 30th to discuss it further before its third reading at council’s September 13th meeting.
While the name sounds rather ominous, Valemount CAO Eric Depenau said the main ideas behind the bylaw is to consolidate information already present in various employee contracts and job descriptions, inform council on what has been delegated to staff previously, and streamline Village operations.
As an example, Depenau said under the old bylaw, staff were required to receive approval from council to inform the public about a resolution already approved by council.
“The Act says that to give notice about that decision is a councilor’s responsibility. So currently, there’s a gap in the chain of approval. Rather than ask, if we can share an already approved decision, it would just be able to be done without a Council resolution,” Depenau explained.
According to a staff report, the bylaw will also result in greater meeting flexibility, with fewer special council meetings needing to be scheduled.
Another example the CAO provided was road closures. Under the old legislation, in order to temporarily close a road for repairs, a resolution from council would have been required, meaning five members of council would need to attend the meeting and approve the closure, which Depenau said is difficult during the summer when council only meets once per month.
“So for every time that CN wants to do railway crossing work on 5th Avenue, to adhere to the process as it is written, we would have to call in five members of council to schedule a meeting. A meeting needs to have an agenda, it needs to have 24 hour notice given to the public, it needs to be published in a number of ways. And then the only question we might have is, counsel, are you okay with us closing the intersection? Which is a pretty operational decision,” Depenau said.
The new bylaw also proposes that the Village’s CAO, Corporate Officer, and Director of Finance be authorized to execute a number of land administration agreements, including lease agreements with a yearly rent of under $75,000 and licenses of occupation agreements for private use on municipal land. The CAO can also approve or deny a development permit application for proposed cosmetic improvements under $50,000.
Other authorizations to certain staff members include purchasing authority for goods, services, or other Village activities, works or services that are ordinary to the Village’s business.
The CAO, Corporate Officer, Deputy Corporate Officer, and Director of Finance are also able to approve or deny business license and street vendor applications, however council approval is still needed for street vendor II permits that propose a different location.
Business operators and property owners who apply for a business license or land use approval and are denied are able to have the decision reconsidered by council.
Municipal cemetery applications for plot reservations, marker placements, and internment licenses can be approved or denied by the CAO Corporate Officer, and the Director of Finance. The Public Works Superintendent is authorized as a cemetery caretaker.
The legislation also limits some of staff’s powers. Under the old bylaw, the Village CAO used to be able to pursue legal action against people on behalf of the municipality. Should the new bylaw pass, the CAO, Corporate Officer, Director of Finance, and Land Use Planner are allowed to obtain legal advice from the Village’s legal counsel, but further action must be approved by council.
The new bylaw was drafted after staff reviewed similar legislation in effect in other municipalities in BC, including Vernon, Penticton, Campbell River, and Nanaimo.