County shop project remains a lingering issue

The County of Stettler is once again verifying and counting signatures after two petitions were delivered to its office on Tuesday, May 17.

The County of Stettler is once again verifying and counting signatures after two petitions looking to halt the much-debated county shop project were delivered to its office on Tuesday, May 17.

The first of the two petitions calls on the county to hold a plebiscite on the matter of the borrowing bylaw, which was passed in April. The second of the two petitions requests that the resolution on the construction of anew county workshop be declared null and void, effectively leaving the matter to be held up until after the next municipal election.

Both of the petitions were delivered by Brad Mappin, who has up to this point been the representative of the voices against the project at county council.

“County council doesn’t seem to want to listen to its people,” Mappin said, explaining why the second petition calls for the shop project to be put aside until after the next election, slated for 2017. “The councillors aren’t representing their electorate.”

He said he hoped that by forcing the issue to wait until after the next municipal election, the county shop facility would become an election issue.

Mappin said both petitions have “well over” the required percentage, a number he said he’s quite proud of since the petitions were circulating at seeding time and the county’s farmers “were difficult to get a hold of.”

In order to be declared valid, 10 per cent of the county’s electorate must be represented on the petitions, and the signatures and address must be legitimate. The county has 30 days from receipt of the petition to declare the petitions valid or invalid, county communications director Niki Thorsteinsson explained.

If the first petition is found sufficient, county council has two options. It can hold the plebiscite or it can kill the bylaw in its second reading. Should the county decide to hold the plebiscite, it has 90 days from the declaration that the petition is sufficient to do so. If the electorate’s voice clearly calls for the bylaw to be defeated, councillors are required to defeat the bylaw. If the voice calling for the bylaw to be defeated is supported by less than 50 per cent of the votes, county councillors can vote as they feel is in the interest of their wards and the county as a whole, Thorsteinsson explained.

As for the second petition, the county is seeking legal advice before making any decisions on how to proceed, though staff are verifying the signatures at present.

“It’s very important that we ensure, for the sake of the entire county elecotrate of 5,000 voters, that we do our due diligence and follow all of the parameters of the Municipal Government Act to determine the sufficiency of both petitions,” Thorsteinsson said.