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Volume 22, Number 7, Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Council expense claims lack rules

The bridge over the North Saskatchewan river at Fort Saskatchewan has been an urgent problem for most of the past decade. It has been ignored for far longer than that.

Contrary to popular belief, there never has been an official plan to improve the situation. Local city and county governments, including the City of Fort Saskatchewan, agreed in 2011 to ask for a bridge south of town that would connect Highway 28A with Township Road 540. But this so-called South Bypass was nothing but a vague proposal never considered by Alberta Transportation — the people that would build and pay for it.

Unfortunately, a real plan is needed before anything can be done. That plan must include more than just a new bridge.

Imagine if you will that the existing bridge is twinned, giving us four full lanes across the river — only to squeeze into a two lane road and the mess that is the Highway 15, 37 and 825 intersection.

The entire road network north of the river must be improved if a new bridge is to have any benefit. It is an area that hasn’t been improved since work stopped on the Manning Freeway at Horse Hills 45 years ago. It is a network build by the Social Credit government.

That is the legacy left to us by a PC government funded by decades of boom and bust. Somehow the money was never found to improve this vital industrial corridor.

We must continue to press for a solution by all means. But some of the most vocal critics, such as our former MLA, had best remember that her government not only failed to build a new bridge, it didn’t even leave us with a plan for one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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Bridge problem years in the making

City Council needs new rules for expense claims for everyone’s sake, says Councillor Frank Garritsen.

Garritsen is proposing that the rules be reviewed in view of Councillor Sheldon Bossert’s recent difficulties. Bossert lost his job with Alberta Education in January after having charged expenses from the same trip to both his employer and the City of Fort Saskatchewan.

Councillors are each allowed to spend about $10,000 annually on travel expenses and community promotions, but are given few guidelines as to what is allowed and what is not, Garritsen says.

While some rules may seem obvious, it would still make sense to clearly state them, he says. “We need to clarify this for everyone, so that others don’t get in trouble.”

“It’s protecting not only the council members, but the confidence of citizens.”

Garritsen, who introduced the idea of posting Council expense claims on line in the first place, also feels it is time to take a step further and make sure expense claims are more clearly stated and confirmed.

“We need to be held at a higher level of transparency when it comes to all of our expenses.”

Garritsen’s motion will be considered at the Feb. 28th Council meeting.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017