Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ice and Snow

Well, it's -35C this morning so what better time to sit down with a coffee and do a little electronic (web) surfing.

Clicking through my Regular Reading (which can be found on the right hand side of the blog, down near the bottom) I popped in to Leslie Ayer-Jaschke's blog to see if she's resumed posting after the holidays, turns out she has and her first post back is on sidewalk snow removal in Peace River.

Of course with winter comes snow and ice all across the north so the kinds of problems Leslie describes are pretty common. For quite some time in Grande Prairie we've had a bylaw (You'll find the relevant section under Part 4, about mid way down the page) in place requiring residents and businesses to clear any sidewalks that bound their property, or risk facing a $100 fine or the possibility of the city cleaning it and then sending a bill to the property owner. That would only happen in some pretty extreme circumstances but many people aren't aware of it so this year we decided to to a little promotion of the bylaw and the fact that enforcement services is looking for people to comply.

Wouldn't you know it though, just a few weeks after this hit the media I had an email from a resident with a complaint. They live on a fairly major route through the city and they work hard to keep the sidewalk in front of their house clear. The problem is that some of our city trucks are equipped with "belly-blades" so they can also throw snow off the streets as they drive around doing regular loads. Seems like a good idea right? Might as well have every city vehicle that is on the roads working to help clear the streets right?

Well, these guys move faster and have less control of where the snow goes in comparison to a grader. (it just gets sent to the outside of the road) so what happens? They throw snow on to the sidewalk this poor resident just cleared. I've raised the issue with the public works director but isn't it funny how one good idea can sometimes have unintended side effects?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Community Energy System (CES)

I'm off to a Environment Committee meeting in a few minutes but I really wanted to get this up to share. This is an overview of the community energy system (CES) proposed by Aquatera. This has been in the works since at least 2001 but recently you may remember that during the city's budget discussions this year council (narrowly) voted to provide $6 million dollars over the next couple years to kick start the project.

This kick start from the city might not be enough with out support from he provincial or federal governments. The project is expensive upfront (building the system and putting the pipe in the ground) and has a long pay back period. BUT, ultimately it uses heat generated from a waste product to warm public buildings, at a cost that will be stable over the long term. For public insitutions like the city, the college or the hospital cost certainty is a very important factor. The last few years have been a perfect illustration of the trouble unpredictable costs cause for governments. I think it's a very wise investment that also happens to have great environmental benefits!

Now, who else will step up to make it a reality?




Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Anti-Idling Bylaws; Surprise, Surprise... GP Already Has One.

Sometimes things get missed.

This article from Monday's edition of the Daily Herald Tribune looking at the possibility of an anti-idling bylaw seems to be spurred on by news from Edmonton. The Mayor ways quoted;

Discussions over an anti-idling bylaw in Edmonton last week stimulated debate in Grande Prairie on whether such a bylaw could apply to this northern city.

Edmonton is considering a bylaw that would give a $250 fine to drivers who idle their vehicles for more than three minutes within a 30-minute period – it would not apply under temperatures -11 and below.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” said Mayor Dwight Logan about the bylaw. “I’m reluctant to support something that infringes on people’s right to do things that may not negatively impact other people.

“On the other hand, arguments can be made that the idling does impact other people.”

A bylaw addressing idling has not reached city council in the last few years, said the mayor, but they will look closely to Edmonton’s decision on the matter. ...

So, the story gained a little momentum and generated this editorial in today's paper;

The idea of a bylaw limiting how long people can keep their vehicles running, at first might seem laughable, but it’s no idle threat.

Anti-idling bylaws, as they’re commonly called, are just one of many environmentally-driven ideas that have become all the rage in communities across Canada. While many of these bylaws, and the people supporting them, have their hearts in the right place, we urge caution and not blind obedience. Edmonton is the latest city in Alberta to examine the idea. Jasper has had a bylaw since 2007.

It might not come up in Grande Prairie, but if it does, it’s not a clear-cut issue. ...

The thing is that Grande Prairie does actually have an anti-idling provision in one of it's bylaws, and has had since 2003! You can read the full bylaw here but I've coped the important part below;

Bylaw C-1103
A Bylaw of the City of Grande Prairie, to prohibit certain nuisances, disturbances and activities creating noise; and to abate the incidence of noise and to restrict when certain sounds may be made
(As Amended by Bylaw C-1103A and C-1103B)


17. No person shall use or engage in the use of engine retarder brakes within the City.
18. No person shall allow a motor vehicle engine to remain running in a residential district or within 500 feet of a residential district for longer than 20 minutes while the motor vehicle is not in motion.
19. The failure of a person to comply with the provisions of the Traffic Safety Act or any regulations thereunder regarding:
(a) the prohibition against the use of signalling devices on motor vehicles so as to make more noise than is reasonably necessary;
(b) the restrictions in the type or use of mufflers and similar equipment;
(c) the prohibition against creating or causing the emission of any loud and unnecessary noise from a motor vehicle; or
(d) the operation of a vehicle on a highway in a residential district between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. in a manner that unduly disturbs the residents of that area;

(my bolding)

From reading the bylaw you can see why the issue came up; noise - not environmental impact. I remember discussing the issue and hearing from quite a few residents who were upset with neighbours who would leave large diesel trucks running in the driveway over night. It was only after quite a bit of debate that we decided to include part 18.

So, turns out that GP has had anti-idling provisions in it's bylaws for quite a while. Its not as specific as Edmonton is considering but it is there. Sometimes these things get missed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Library Update - January 12th, 2009

Hot on the heels of my first post of 2009, here's your first Library Update of 2009... courtesy of Laurie Harrison;

Giving Tree
Through December, 96 items were collected via the Children's Library Giving Tree and donated to the Odyssey House for Christmas stockings. Thank you to al how donated an item to make Christmas better for the kids at Odyssey House!

Family Literacy Day
Family Literacy Day (founded by ABC Canada) is Tuesday January 27. At 7:00 pm we will celebrate with "A Bunch of Munsch" by way of a special pyjama party. This year ABC Canada is encouraging Canadians to break the world record for the most children reading with an adult at one time. The date of the read-off is January 24 at 1:00pm in the Story Room.

Winter preschool programming will begin January 20th.

We thank the public for their patience as we have been migrating to a new computer system. It has meant some days of closure at the library as well as some limits in our functionality. We are back up and running -- just working out the inevitable "bugs and quirks" that happen with any new system. Benefits are a modern, user-friendly catalogue which will include personal reading lists and saved reading history; links to first chapters, excerpts and reviews; and a google-like interface.

Easing into '09 Blogging

Ok, ok.. I'm back.

It's been quite a while since the last post, I hope everyone out there had a great time over the holidays! I think it's going to take a little time for me to get back in to the swing of regular posts so you'll have to excuse me if this post seems a little dis-jointed, let's just say I'm easing my way in to my 2009 blogging.

Tonight is our first full council meeting since December 15th and although things did slow down quite a bit over the holidays, there have still been meetings to go to. In fact, we ran right up to the holidays with a three hour meeting with the County of GP on December 23rd! My last meeting of 2008 was an Arctic Winter Games host society meeting on December 30th and the first meeting of '09 was on the 5th. Actually, looking back last week had 5 council related appointments and this week has 8 - so I guess we're fully back in the swing of things!

Speaking of being fully in the swing of thing; preparations for the Arctic Winter Games are well under way. If you want to keep up with the latest AWG happenings (no, not that AWG, I'm talking about this AWG) there is now an Arctic Winter Games blog to follow and you'll notice I've added the latest AWG news headlines to the right side of this blog.

In addition to the latest news, the AWG Blog has links to additional Arctic Winter Games resources and will play host to some special looks at the unique character of these games. It also has a handy feature that allows you to sign up to receive free email updates when ever the site is updated. (my blog also has the same feature, it's just over there on the right and side....)

Welcome to 2009!


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