ST. PAUL - The Town of St. Paul has approved first reading of a proposed Advertising and Public Notification Bylaw, which will eliminate the requirement to advertise public notices in the St. Paul Journal/Lakeland This Week newspaper.
Director of Legislative Services Aline Brousseau presented the bylaw to council on Nov. 27. Detailing why the bylaw was put forward, Brousseau said, “Administration was tasked with finding ways to save money for budget 2024 and future budgets. This new proposed bylaw allows for flexibility in advertising and gives the public information on the timing and place of where notices will be posted to keep informed.”
In Section 606(1) of the MGA, it states, “Notice of the bylaw, resolution, meeting, public hearing or other thing must be (a) published at least once a week for 2 consecutive weeks in at least one newspaper or other publication circulating in the area to which the proposed bylaw, resolution or other thing relates, or in which the meeting or hearing is to be held.”
The bylaw is required if the Town wishes to stop advertising public notices in the local newspaper and instead only advertise public notices through their website and social media.
According to the portion of the MGA that speaks to advertising, it states, “Before making a bylaw under subsection (1), council must be satisfied that the method the bylaw would provide for is likely to bring proposed bylaws, resolutions, meetings, public hearings and other things advertised by that method to the attention of substantially all residents in the area to which the bylaw, resolution or other thing relates or in which the meeting or hearing is to be held.”
Brousseau presented a few questions and answers to council during the Monday night meeting. One question asked how people would access the information if they did not have access to a computer or digital device. The response given stated, “Individuals can access a computer for free at the local library or call the respective department to print a copy of the notice for them.”
The proposed bylaw before council states, “Any public notice required to be advertised under Section 606 of the Municipal Government Act of a bylaw, shall be provided in the following methods: posting a notice prominently on the Town of St. Paul’s website (News Webpage); and posting a notice prominently on the Town of St. Paul’s social media (Facebook); and posting a notice prominently of the front and back doors of the Town Hall; and posting a notice on the Town of St. Paul’s App.”
The proposed bylaw removes the requirement to advertise in the local newspaper, and removes any reference to a bulletin board, instead adding that notices would be posted on the front and back doors of the Town Hall, and the Town’s app.
The proposed bylaw also states, “A public notice must be posted at least 14 days before the thing advertised occurs.”
In 2018, Bylaw 1250 was approved, which is in effect now. That bylaw states public notices will be advertised on the Town’s website and social media, on a bulletin board at the Town administration office, and in the local newspaper.
Coun. Nathan Taylor made a motion for the first reading of the bylaw, opening the floor for discussion. Taylor then requested that prior to second reading council be informed as to how much money could potentially be saved by creating the bylaw. He also asked about the Town of St. Paul’s full-page ad that appears monthly in the local newspaper, wanting confirmation that the bylaw would not end the publication of that advertisement.
“Since it is just a weekly paper, we sometimes need to wait to actually start the advertising because our meetings are on Monday,” Mayor Maureen Miller said. “It would actually streamline some of that timeframe and clear up some red tape that sometimes does happen for us in getting some of these through, I would hope.”
Coun. Norm Noel asked if administration could make the website portion where notices are posted more user-friendly for residents to access. CAO Steven Jeffery said he would look into it.
Prior to the vote being called, Taylor also made note that each of the methods of notifying the public targets a different demographic.
First reading of the bylaw was carried. A public hearing has been set for Jan. 8, 2024.