The Town of St. Paul has taken the initial step towards changing its approach to public notice advertising by approving the first reading of a proposed Advertising and Public Notification Bylaw on November 27.
If fully enacted, and the bylaw would eliminate the requirement to advertise public notices in the St. Paul Journal Newspaper.
Aline Brousseau, the Director of Legislative Services, presented the bylaw to the council, outlining its purpose to provide flexibility in advertising and share information about the timing and location of notices. Brousseau explained that the proposal was part of an initiative by the administration to identify cost-saving measures for the 2024 budget and beyond.
According to Section 606 (1) of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), public notices must be published in a local newspaper or another circulating publication for two consecutive weeks. The proposed bylaw seeks to modify this requirement, allowing the Town to advertise public notices solely through its website and social media channels.
The council, as outlined in the MGA, must ensure that the proposed advertising method effectively reaches the majority of residents in the relevant area. Brousseau addressed concerns about digital accessibility, noting that individuals without computers or digital devices could access information at the local library or request printed copies from the respective department.
The proposed bylaw specifies that public notices would be posted on the Town of St. Paul’s website, social media (Facebook), the front and back doors of the Town Hall, and the Town’s app. It removes the obligation to advertise in the local newspaper and mentions the posting of notices at least 14 days before the event.
Coun. Nathan Taylor moved for the first reading of the bylaw, prompting discussion. Taylor requested information on potential cost savings and sought assurance that the bylaw would not impact the Town’s monthly full-page advertisement in the local newspaper. Mayor Maureen Miller suggested that the change could streamline the advertising process.
Coun. Norm Noel raised the issue of user-friendliness on the website, prompting Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Steven Jeffery to commit to looking into improvements. Taylor highlighted that each method of notification targets different demographics.
The first reading of the bylaw was carried out, and a public hearing is scheduled for January 8, 2024. The proposed changes signify a potential shift in how the Town communicates essential information to its residents, emphasizing digital channels and the Town Hall. The upcoming public hearing will provide an opportunity for further discussion and community input