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Hoteliers offer council passing grades

Banff’s hoteliers are once again giving local politicians a favourable review for their performance – but they take issue with the Town of Banff spending $110,000 on new staff and equipment to deal with illegal dumping.

Banff’s hoteliers are once again giving local politicians a favourable review for their performance – but they take issue with the Town of Banff spending $110,000 on new staff and equipment to deal with illegal dumping.

It’s the third council scorecard since the October 2010 municipal election, in which the Banff Lake Louise Hotel Motel Association (BLLHMA) considers whether council’s votes generally reflect its policy positions.

Council dropped from a B ranking to a C ranking in the third quarter because of its unanimous vote to hire a new $52,600 full-time employee and spend $56,000 for a specialized lift gate truck to deal with unsightly, illegal dumping throughout town.

Darren Reeder, BLLHMA’s executive director, said the group is concerned a full-time position was created without any debate on whether internal cost savings could have been found to fund the position.

“Everyone agrees that illegal dumping is not good for the visitor experience and general appearance and character of the town, but the board feels it didn’t need this level of response,” he said.

“We believe the issue of illegal dumping should have been addressed by better coordinating existing staff resources. We’re right on top of the budget process, and it’s a long-term, full-time position.”

Councillor Leslie Taylor said she understands the BLLHMA’s concerns about council’s decision on illegal dumping, but believes every effort was made to pursue education and enforcement “and we haven’t been able to make this problem go away.

“I also have complete sympathy with the wish to look for efficiencies before adding resources, but I believe that the resource recovery folks are working at capacity, and that, unfortunately, we legitimately need to devote more resources to the problem that the illegal dumpers create for all of us,” she said.

Councillor Paul Baxter said he appreciates BLLHMA’s review of council’s performance, but said the ongoing issue of illegal dumping continues to bother him.

“It disturbs me that we have to spend $50,000-plus to accommodate a group of people who are showing no respect to the community by dumping their garbage in our neighbourhoods,” he said.

“We tried a variety of different strategies throughout the spring and summer to address this embarrassing behaviour, but all were unsuccessful,” he added.

“The alternative would be to maintain the status quo, which was clearly not a solution. I hope that we can continue to increase the fines involved with people illegally dumping to offset the costs involved with their disrespectful behaviour.”

Council did, however, get good grades for support of visitor experience initiatives, including enhanced street pole banners to animate the tourist town and spending another $50,000 on the Legacy Trail by the Banff east gate.

For now, council still gets a B rating for its work on the Land Use Bylaw review, in particular for referring contentious issues on gas stations, grocery stores and fast food chain restaurants to a working group for economic review.

“We’re really taking a wait-and-see approach on what comes out of the working group,” said Reeder.

Meanwhile, BLLHMA is clearly stating they are opposed to spending much money on updating the municipality’s website, given that council had previously indicated the town’s website should be reviewed.

The Town of Banff hopes to conduct a thorough consultation and needs analysis to determine whether the existing site is adequate, requires full redevelopment or something in between.

A budget for the needs analysis will be presented to council as a new initiative in the 2012 budget process, which gets underway later this month. Budget dates are set for Nov. 21, 28, 30 and Dec. 5, 7 and 12.

“We think the website we have is effective for what a municipal website is supposed to do, which is to provide information to citizens, visitors and businesses. It’s timely and functionally works well,” said Reeder.

“From a taxpayer perspective, we’re saying no. The one we have works well, but visually, if you need a bit of refreshing, it should be a nimble and appropriate response.”

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