COUNCIL MISCELLANY 2: Smoking dogs deferred, speed bumps, and garbage bylaws

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
January 27th, 2013

After a protracted discussion on dogs in the downtown core, council voted to defer further discussion of changes to the animal control bylaw until a meeting of council in a committee of the whole (COW).

The COW will not likely occur until late February. Council uses COWs to discuss issues more informally than regular meeting protocols allow.

Similarly, discussion on the idea to prohibit smoking in certain public areas has been deferred until after council receives a presentation from the Interior Health Authority later this year.

Coun. Kathy Moore did raise a motion to have a one year trial period in which leashed dogs would be allowed downtown. This initiated a long discussion about whether or not it would be a good idea to have designated places to tie dogs and the difficulties that dogs create for some people. The motion was ultimately defeated in favour of deferring the discussion to a COW.

The discussions centered around the need for, and effectiveness of, bylaw enforcement, so Coun. Kathy Wallace raised a motion for a staff report on current bylaw enforcement. “I want staff’s perspective: is it working?” she asked. Council supported the motion with Coun. Cary Fisher opposed.

“Both these issues, to me, they’re not really big issues at all,” Fisher said. “In two years, I haven’t really smelled smoke downtown. Why are we wasting time and money looking at something like that? Have you had a problem with a dog, on a leash or off a leash? Have you had a problem with a smoker, on a leash or off a leash?”

Coun. Tim Thatcher thought a review of bylaw enforcement was useful, but he agreed, “Without some type of fairly strong bylaw enforcement, neither one of these is a big deal. Without enforcement, there’s nothing.”

Wallace said, “There’s a sense in the community that we don’t enforce bylaws. What’s the point of making bylaws if we don’t enforce them?”

Coun. Jill Spearn said the current enforcement was “not that effective” because it is driven by complaints. But, she said, “I think it’s working okay the way it is.”

Moore said, “I support the motion. Every once in a while you have to go back and look at a system.”

Garbage Bylaw returned to staff for new options

With increases to tipping fees and other costs to garbage disposal, council debated a bylaw to increase the annual flat rate for residences.

Coun. Cary Fisher said he didn’t disagree with the need, but was not satisfied with the detail of the cost analysis provided, a complaint echoed by other councillors.

“What are the actual numbers?” he asked.

Coun. Kathy Moore agreed, and added her concern that “raising the flat rate doesn’t encourage people to recycle, it encourages them to pitch it.”

Currently, Rossland residences pay a flat rate for garbage service, plus a $1.50 fee per bag disposed. The idea behind the dual fee approach is to make sure base costs are covered while also creating an incentive to reduce garbage by recycling and composting.

Moore suggested instead that the city consider a “modest increase to the flat cost, and a modest increase to the bag cost. There’s an awful lot of stuff that goes into the garbage that could be recycled.”

Coun. Jill Spearn agreed, but noted the general problem that the per-bag fee causes some people to “ditch” their garbage elsewhere, such as in downtown cans and dumpsters.

Coun. Kathy Wallace, Rossland’s director on the regional district board, noted, “Tipping fees went up because RDKB has a diversion program with a zero waste goal.” The program was so successful at diverting solid waste to recycling that the anticipated revenue was not met.

“What is put in [the landfill] will cost more,” she said, “and we can expect this cost to continue to rise.”

She noted that organic diversion is “certainly the intention” of the regional district, but “we don’t know when.”

Wallace added, “There’s an assumption in the general community that garbage should be free. But it’s really not free.”

Council voted to ask staff for a new bylaw with a combined increase to the flat rate and the bag rate, and to include additional analysis to justify the increase.

Speeding on Thompson Ave.

RCMP speed board data from Thompson Ave. did not provide any evidence of out of control driving on Thompson, so council has decided to “continue to work with the RCMP” to ensure the safety of the road, but will take no more action than that for the moment.

The speed board data was taken on several occasions this summer and in the summer of 2010—attached below—for one or two hour periods at various points along Thompson. The data indicates that drivers are typically under 45 kilometres per hour, but in any given hour, some 5 to 15 cars pass at faster speeds. Speeds of 55 kilometres per hour were not unusual, and the fastest speed clocked was between 61 and 65 kilometres per hour.

As several councillors pointed out, however, people typically slow down at the sight of the speed board, reducing the reliability of the data.

Coun. Kathy Moore commented, “The residents that are there are the best judge of whether there’s a speeding problem.”

The long standing issue, most recently reignited by a letter and statement to council by Gerald Savard, has been addressed in the past by speed bumps and signage. Although the speed bumps worked, the city received many complaints about noise and inconvenience.

“The RCMP cautioned the City that the same complaints will be expressed if stop signs are erected on this arterial road. Additionally, the RCMP cautioned that ‘failure to stop’ may present added risk to travelling on Thompson Avenue,” city staff reported to council.

Another option that has been explored in the past is the use of a speed reader board, but the only one regionally available for loan is not always available when it’s needed. City staff suggested that Rossland could purchase a board for $7000, and then use that board in other locations around town.

Corporate Officer Tracey Butler noted that it “wakes people up,” and having a city reader means “we can use it when we need it, not [just] when it’s available.”

Coun. Kathy Wallace said, “It’s not the only area of the community where we have this issue,” implying some support for the idea of a city speed reader.

Coun. Jill Spearn said she thought congestion, not speeding, was the problem. “Speaking subjectively,” she said, “I don’t see a significant number of people speeding on Thompson. The whole east end is a bottle-neck.”

Coun. Tim Thatcher said he thinks the problem is “the same people over and over again.” He said, “The biggest problem is the lack of RCMP down there,” and some tickets would “send a message.”

Coun. Jody Blomme agreed, “I like the idea of RCMP there at unpredictable times. That’s the best deterrent, a ticket on occasion.”

Coun. Cary Fisher recalled a problem he’d read about with speeding buses in Kenya that was solved by signs on the bus that said, “Please report any unsafe driving.” He suggested something similar might work here.

Moore asked about the possiblity of a speed ditch instead of a bump—which must be removed seasonally to allow for ploughing. Material and labour to install and remove a speed bump is about $1500 per bump.

The mayor said, “That’s come up in the past and it was felt that it was not appropriate. I don’t know if it’s any more simple.”

Moore also raised the issue of logging trucks passing at 4 a.m. “They’re good community partners,” she said, “perhaps we could solve that problem by talking to them.”

Mayor Greg Granstrom said, “We have to recognize it’s a public road. They’re not breaking the law, they’re not speeding.”

Moore replied that “4:30 a.m. is too early to be a good neighbour.”

Granstrom said the city has a very good relationship with Beaumont and Atco, and they “respond instantly to any complaint.” Currently, Thompson is the only road available for the trucks to access the Malde Creek logging road, city staff said.

The RCMP has offered to work with the city to increase their presence on Thompson, and council voted to support this option.

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