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Crowsnest Pass community safety committee to resume in 2021

Thursday, 14 January 2021. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Crowsnest Pass community safety committee to resume in 2021
By Sean Oliver
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that emergency preparedness and operations are essential services.

It was therefore fitting that Crowsnest Pass council wrapped up regular meetings in December by discussing the municipality’s protective services committee, recently rebranded as the community safety committee.

The committee had been suspended for most of the year as council sought to better define its focus and terms of reference in order to incorporate it into the general committees bylaw. At the Dec. 1 council meeting, committee chairman Michael Taje presented the committee’s vision and goals going into 2021.

“The idea with the [community safety] committee is starting engagement with the public, working with various other community groups to come up with ideas on how we can make our community safer,” he said.

The committee is made up of volunteers who collectively have 160 years of emergency experience. Part of the committee’s initial focus will be to define what role the committee should play in the community and a framework to assess public safety hazards.

Specifically, the committee is reviewing six action items in the first quarter of 2021 that will direct its function in the municipality.

Initial activities will be reviewing terms of reference from 2016, developing a process to determine the validity of hazards as well as a matrix to guide risk-hazard decisions, creating a merit form to support recommendations submitted to council, establishing guidelines for student groups and the general public, and establishing principles that will help establish what public safety concerns are within or outside the committee’s scope.

“It’s a new process, it’s something different than we’ve done in the past,” Mr. Taje added, “so there’s going to be some pre-work that has to be done.”

Council reviewed the information two weeks later during the Dec. 15 regular council meeting.

Coun. Marlene Anctil supported giving the community safety committee the opportunity to move forward with its ideas.

“I’d like to see us give this committee a chance. Let’s see how they do, and I think they can be an asset to this community,” she said.

Not having clearly defined terms of reference or clear focus to guide activities, however, was concerning to Mayor Blair Painter because it lacked any means to ensure accountability to council.

“Who’s going to be thinking of safety concerns? Where are those going to come from?” he asked.

“I think if we’re going to have a committee then council should be setting their terms of reference, not [just] allowing that committee to determine their future,” Mayor Painter added. “This is how they want to move forward, not necessarily how council wants them to move forward.”

Mayor Painter pointed out that the RCMP encouraged rural municipalities to form a rural crime watch, which was an already established program with policies and procedures that are uniform across Alberta. Integrating the program in Crowsnest Pass, he said, would take out a lot of the guesswork the community safety committee was trying to address.

“I think it gives better direction than to say ‘Hey, we’re going to investigate safety concerns,’” the mayor concluded. “I’m a little worried about that.”

Delaying committee meetings and actions, replied Coun. Dean Ward, was unnecessary.

“We’ve been at this for over a year, and we haven’t come up with the answers to terms of reference and what things it’s going to do,” Coun. Ward said. “I don’t have a problem [with them] taking over advice when we can’t figure it out ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

As for accountability to council, Couns. Anctil and Girhiny would be attending each committee meeting as appointed members. The committee also would be sending recommendations to council that would need to be approved before any action was undertaken.

“If we don’t like it, we can always say no,” Coun. Ward added. “I think we have nothing to lose.”

Council eventually approved the community safety committee’s plan to begin meeting in 2021. In addition to the six action items Mr. Taje presented, council members requested the committee also explore options in establishing the rural crime watch program in the municipality and present its progress in March.

The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue. Agendas are available on the municipality’s website at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.