In a 5 to 2 vote, town council has held off on recruiting a term transit coordinator and will leave that decision to the new council taking office after the Oct. 16 election.
The majority of councillors agreed with Morgan Nagel's motion to allow the new council to make the decision and deferred it until at the second meeting of November.
Nagel was opposed to hiring a coordinator, even on a short term, and believed that decision should rest with the new council.
"It was very clear in the written version of the report that if we had gone ahead with option one tonight that it would have resulted in hiring somebody who's purpose would be the implementation of local transit," says Nagel. "We may find that local transit is the right option for Cochrane, but that's not up to this mayor and council to decide. Let the people speak on Monday and see who they want to lead this town. The new leadership should be the ones that set the tone for transit."
While the majority of other councillors favoured the idea of further investigating transit, they believed the timing was wrong and should not be decided at the last meeting of the current council.
Councillor Mary Lou Eckmeier spoke at length on her concerns and believed the report presented contained extensive information the future council, let alone the current council, would need to time to digest and discuss. Should council have decided to proceed she insisted a strategic session be held, followed by a special council meeting on Saturday. The resulting vote required neither to occur.
Both Mayor Ivan Brooker and Councillor Ross Watson saw no value in the deferral and believed it would give the new council valuable information to review and consider in the spring of 2018.
"The thing I really like about this one is it didn't come out of the blue," said Councillor Watson. "We planned for it, we budgeted for it in advance, we all knew we were going in this direction."
Mayor Brooker believed it was important to start collecting public feedback now on what shape they want transit to take and that people were getting hung up over the word "implementation" when it was largely an opportunity to set the stage for further discussions.
Calgary Transit was recruited to provide input and recommendations on what next steps would be required to pursue transit. Senior transit planner Asif Kurji presented a report that included information on communications and public engagement, forms of transit, fare strategy, fleet procurement, infrastructure upgrades, service launch and the connection with regional transit, which is currently being examined separately by the Calgary Regional Partnership.
Cochrane deputy CAO Suzanne Gaida requested the hiring of a term transit co-ordinator to oversee the implementation of a local transit service. The budget of $144,888 for the position and public engagement had been approved by council during the spring budget adjustments and would be derived from an Municipal Sustainability Initiative operating grant.
Gaida told council there would be a request coming forward during the 2018 budget deliberations to establish a reserve in anticipation of launching a service in 2019.
Earlier that day, Nagel briefly conducted a straw vote on a Rants and Raves Facebook page on whether or not council should make a decision on the report. He says in a span of about a half hour, 48 people were in favour of deferral and two were against before it was taken down by the page's administrator.
"I guess it's a reminder that these Facebook groups that appear to be public aren't actually public."
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