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Council considers improvements for town and airport

Council tabled zoning by-law changes and the mayor broke the tie regarding a vote on town improvement consultation.

Town of Virden Councillors began their last meeting of 2021 on a positive note by wrapping up some unfinished business.

Mark Keown and Kathy Welsh, two nominees for the Town of Virden Citizen of the Year, attended the meeting at Tundra Oil & Gas Place to accept their certificates from Mayor Murray Wright. Neither was able to attend the formal presentation at the Town’s Appreciation Dinner on Dec. 4. On behalf of Council, Wright acknowledged and extended appreciation to them for their contributions to the community.

RCMP REPORT

Sgt. Scott Fefchak presented a brief monthly policing report. He noted that during the recent National Impaired Driving Day, officers stopped 273 vehicles and found no offenders.

YOUR TOWN RISING

Council decided to collaborate with the other municipal partners involved in putting on the annual Southwest Business and Entrepreneurship Expo to bring “Your Town Rising” to Virden for a consultation session with the local business community.

Your Town Rising website indicates they are a business duo with a combined 20+ years of experience helping towns, businesses and organizations be successful.   

During the discussion, Coun. Travis Penner suggested that it would be prudent to wait until COVID-19 subsides. Meanwhile, Coun. Tina Williams thought it was more expedient to proceed when the resource people, Leslie Fournier and Gregg McLachlan, are available, as they are the keynote speakers at the 2022 Expo in Souris in February. The cost, $2,500, is substantially less than what would normally be charged for such a session. Coun. Whitney Baker saw such an initiative as being better spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce rather than the Town itself. With three councilors in favour of going ahead and three opposed, Mayor Murray Wright cast the tie-breaking vote, allowing the motion to pass. 

COUNCIL MEETING DATES

During the first three months of 2022, Council will meet on the following dates:  Jan. 11 and 25, Feb. 8 and 22 and March 8 and 22. In April, meetings will return to the regular schedule of the first and third Tuesday of each month. 

NEW TOGP STORAGE SHED

Council accepted a material quotation, in the amount of $9,548.51, from Virden Home Hardware for a new storage shed at Tundra Oil & Gas Place. The shed will be constructed by Town staff. 

LETTER OF SUPPORT

Council will provide a letter of support to the New Horizons Centre to accompany its application for provincial grant funds to assist with building renovations. 

2022 INTERIM OPERATING BUDGET

Council accepted the interim operating budget as presented by administrative staff, which will be in effect until the 2022 Financial Plan is adopted.    

INSURANCE RENEWAL MEETING

Any available councillors were authorized to attend an Association of Manitoba Municipalities Zoom meeting: Annual Municipal General Insurance Renewal Meeting, which will be held virtually on Feb. 11. 

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLAN

Councillors reviewed and adopted the updated Westman Emergency Group Management Plan.

ZONING BY-LAW AMENDMENTS

Council decided not to proceed with amendments to the Town’s Zoning By-Law without more clarity as to what is actually being changed.      

The by-law addresses such topics as the use of metal shipping containers, commonly known as sea cans, by businesses for on-site storage. Coun. Penner took issue with more stringent rules regarding their use and the cost it will add to doing business. He thought that being too picky would be difficult to police and act as a deterrent to new commerce in the community.  

“We spend a lot of time trying to attract businesses and keep them,” he said. “It’s an efficient means of storage and a good way to recycle the containers.”  

Both he and Coun. Williams wanted more clarification regarding what differs from the present by-law.   

“I know we already have a by-law in place to deal with these (storage containers),” Williams said. “Maybe if we saw what it is that we are now enforcing and what it is that we are actually going to change, I like the idea that if someone is going to put a bunch of these (containers) there they all kind of have to look the same.”

Penner also questioned the merit of an amendment requiring automobile retailers to pave the lots where their vehicles are displayed. He also saw it as a deterrent to attracting large businesses of a similar nature to the town in the future. He singled out Virden Dodge, the newest such dealership, which he thought that due to the size of their lot would have to do a significant amount of asphalt paving work in order to be compliant.

“I think it’s really discouraging,” he said. “It’s not going to be (conducive to) attracting any further dealerships. I don’t think we would have that Dodge dealership here today if that by-law existed.”

Chief Administrative Officer Rhonda Stewart told Council that meetings have been held with representatives of two dealerships, Mainline Motors and Virden Ford, and they are supportive.   

The by-law received first reading at the meeting, and will now be forwarded to the province for review. A public hearing on the matter will be scheduled in February, after which changes may be made by Council. 

INDEMNITY POLICY

After making several amendments, Council adopted the 2022 indemnity policy.

AIRPORT CHANGES POSSIBLE

Council reviewed information regarding new Transport Canada regulations which will apply to several small rural and northern airports across Canada, including Virden’s. Local concerns include the ability for the Life Flight aircraft to continue to land in Virden and service the area. After some discussion, Council authorized administration to draft a letter to the federal Member of Parliament expressing opposition to the proposed changes, as well as communicate with provincial authorities who may be able to assist by lobbying on the Town’s behalf.