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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Week Seven

I settled in at the Mirror Lake Centre (MLC) pretty quick. Everyone has been helpful and very welcoming. The office set up is quite different from the city hall as well as you get the extra bonus of having to view the mirror lake.

I have been researching the integrated Municipal Solid Waste initiative been pursued by Camrose. The idea is to have a master plan for a comprehensive municipal waste management. To achieve this, I am looking at what other municipalities in various provinces have, as well as the request for proposal (RFP’s) that was tendered by these municipalities. I did examine a total of 25 municipalities integrated waste management master plans. The plan the stood out to me is Halifax municipality and the Quinte West (Quinte West involved and collaborated with nine municipalities and counties in Ontario) plans. I am still researching some RFP’s because I am really not satisfied with what I came across. The research is going good but I might be constrained by some software problems when I start developing a plan and RFP next week. I emailed IT about it and they hope to talk to my supervisor to address these concerns. Moreover, the waste management project may possibly present some hiccups. I perceive some technicalities might develop with the research project because of the direction the Infrastructure department wants to go with it. It is not to say it is bad but rather there may not be easy fixes, so to speak, and a concise roadmap to meeting the expectations of the waste management project. There are numerous considerations that have to be factored in to achieve the objective of the project. Just to name a few: which municipal RFP may best suit this project; how will the project factor in the perspective and position of the various stakeholders and residents in Camrose in contrast to the recommendations made by various consultants to manage solid waste; what direction does the engineering department perceive to be feasible; which municipality in Alberta with a similar population has adopted or developed an integrated municipal solid waste master plan. These are all issues that might influence the research I am undertaking. To add to this, I might need some more consultations with Mark to clarify the objective of the project because I have to factor in time considerations and what is actually feasible to achieve within the time left to complete my internship. I believe I have more questions. On Monday, I will meet with the infrastructure department to discuss some of these issues.

This research has showed me how important it is to keep a constant communication line with a project manager about the scope, timing and purpose of the project because you could easily deviate from the expectations of the project.

I consulted with some departments on the purchasing policy. I consulted with the head of purchasing for capital items such as fleet and machinery, the head of the water treatment plant, the Camrose Police Deputy of Police and Administrator, and the heads of Municipal Engineering and Infrastructure Management. A common theme that was echoed was the need to bump up the authorization limit for the purchase of goods and services to about $75,000, and capital equipment @ $100,000. As well, allowing the city administrator to authorize at least $100,000 without having to go through council every time a purchase needs to be made. Simply put, eliminate the process whereby departments have to go back to council to ask for authorization again to spend when the purchase has already been approved in the capital and operating budgets. As well, they recommended the limits to credit cards be increased in order to make certain purchases (for example, miscellaneous items bought in the U.S.) a lot easier. I spite of the recommendations, one department was very satisfied with the way things were running with the purchasing process.

Regarding purchasing, I found out there are no one-fit-all process for all departments, as each department have unique needs, timing and specifications that needs to be met. Departmental purchasing do require some level of experience and astuteness, and going with what works. I think it will surely be a challenge to factor in the recommendations being made by the various department in the redrafting of the policy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week Six

The surveillance project is about 90% done. After examining other municipalities’ surveillance in relation to the FOIP Guide in using surveillance cameras, I noticed that most of the municipalities that adapted and followed the guide carefully developed policies that aligned closely with FOIP guidelines; however, the municipalities that tried to redraft their own policy with minimal FOIP guidelines produced some inept and weak policies. I used the guide as a blueprint to develop the draft.

I met with the police chief this week to discuss aspects of the surveillance policy. Through our discussions, I became aware of the intricacies involved in FOIP administration with law enforcement. FOIP administration with law enforcement entails lots of court authorizations, and every step of the way must follow a stringent procedure. There is little room for error in law enforcement situations. In addition, I had the opportunity to examine all the surveillance cameras installed at the Police station as well as the monitor. I noticed the cameras installed at the station were positioned in such as a way that they did not monitor activity outside the stations boundaries. The design and installations followed the same guidelines as the FOIP; however, the storage of records from the surveillance cameras was stored differently to maintain its authenticity and credibility to the courts. Records were stored with the RCMP records management department. The reason for consulting with the Camrose Police was to have a comprehensive view (similarities and differences) of how camera surveillance is administered by local bodies and law enforcement. As well, I learnt that the cop cruisers had surveillance cameras on them and the records were automatically dumped via a network onto a database and stored on the database after each shift work.

My meeting with Sean at Public works went well. I got to learn how to read manufacturer specifications and manual, and how to use it to develop maintenance procedures for maintaining equipments at the water treatment plant. It was good to know about what goes on at the plant. Moreover, I got to learn how expensive the equipments at the plant were, and how most of the equipments are purchased from a sole source in the United States since there are no Canadian manufacturers. Utilities do have some exemptions from TILMA as most of the equipment and supplies are sole sourced; therefore most of the purchases done by the water department does not have to go through a competitive bidding process. Working at the treatment plant requires different levels of certifications. The highest level is level 4 which requires at least 10years experience and man-hours to get that certification. The course is taken at NAIT.

I was energized when I was informed through email by Melanie that the engineering department had some projects available for me to work on. My eagerness stems, in part, from the downtimes I had experienced the last couple of weeks as well as my enthusiasm to work on other municipal related projects. The projects that were available for me to work on in order of priority include the following:
1. RFPs for Waste Management Plans/Strategies
2. Development Standards for highway corridors
3. Policy for local improvements
4. Policy for paving lanes in developments
5. Flowcharting procedures for purchasing/tendering policy
On Wednesday, June 22, 2011, we, Melanie and I, met with the head of Engineering to discuss the framework of these projects. I got to know the assignments were the baby projects of two departments within engineering: Municipal planning and Development, and Asset Management. The project will be mostly be researchimg and looking at what other municipalities have done on similar projects. In addition, I will be consulting with Mark and Brenda, both heads within the engineering department, on how to proceed with these projects. I will be relocating to the Mirror Lake Centre (MLC) on Monday, June 27, 2011, to work on these projects. Most of the resources that I need to do this research are available at the MLC; therefore, it is a smart move to relocate.

I am aware of the time constraints that I might face while working on the assignment, since I only have about seven weeks to complete my internship; nevertheless, I am hoping to learn and gain some useful understanding of municipal planning and development, as well as asset management within this short time. I am motivated to develop a working knowledge about this project because it aligns with my graduate curricular this fall. I feel it will help me make a better and well informed decision as to what courses I might take this academic year. With registration and enrolment in classes for my fall semester coming up in the first and second week of July, I feel this project comes at a right time. The timing of the project surely gives me an incentive to stay focussed, as it comes with the benefit of guiding me in knowing what areas of municipal engineering might interest me or not excite me in deciding which direction I should take.

My consultation with Donna this morning gave me a clearer understanding between general maintenance purchases vs. capital purchases. For day to day purchases such as maintenance equipment, printer cartridges, car parts, meters and other daily use items they are normally stocked at public works. The purchasing process is pretty simple because most of the items can be bought locally. However, it may happen sometimes that there may be a justification to buy out of the municipality. This justification may arise, if there is a possibility to get the same product at a cheaper price, free shipping, or supplier discount. There are no internal controls, if any, in place currently for general maintenance purchases.
I look forward to talk to Doug to provide answers to how capital expenditures are conducted. He is currently on holidays.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Week Five

I was not able to complete my department consultation this week. The staffs I had to meet with are not available until next week because of tight schedules. Nonetheless, I am hoping to meet them next week to complete my consultation and start working on a draft proposal for the surveillance policy. The draft policy will not have a private impact assessment (PIA) done because PIA’s are not mandatory for video surveillance according to the FOIP commissioner. PIA is more of a due diligence; however, if a municipality or public body has a big project to undertake, then conducting a PIA might be a reasonable way to go. An example of a big project could be expecting tens of thousands of people to attend a BVJ event for a couple of days on a city facility which has surveillance cameras, or having a hockey fest on Whyte Ave in Edmonton where you could expect tens of thousands of people attending. In such cases, a PIA can be considered to assess any privacy concerns for this time period considering the number of people that maybe attending for this period.

I started working on reviewing the purchasing policy this week. I examined the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), and the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA).

The AIT was the federal level agreement, TILMA was the trade agreement between British Columbia and Alberta, and NWPTA is built on TILMA and it includes trade agreements with Saskatchewan.

The main focus of these agreements is to achieve two main things for the West and how trade should be conducted. They include reducing to the minimum or eliminating trade barriers between these provinces, as well as ensuring that goods and services that are procured above the dollar value of $75,000 and construction projects that are above $200,000 are open to all businesses in these provinces to ensure healthy competition.

The reason why these agreements are important to municipalities is because they are part of the entities categorized into what is called municipalities, academic institutions, school boards, and the health sector (MASH), and these entities have to adhere to limitations for procurement in accordance with the above Trade agreements.

I examined some purchasing policies of some municipalities in Alberta. I looked Spruce Grove, St Albert, Grande Prairie, Edmonton, and Red Deer. Some had detailed procurement procedures, while some had some uninteresting and bland, should I add, policies. Nevertheless, what stood out to me was the sustainability purchasing protocol that some municipalities had. That was quiet interesting. I am curious as to if Camrose has a sustainable approach in its purchasing protocols at the department level. My curiosity arises from the fact that the city was very involved in the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). Hopefully, I get some answers when I conduct a department level consultation. As well, I contacted some colleagues with AUMA and other capacity interns working on policy reviews for some tips - they were very helpful. I am still waiting for a response from AUMA.

I hope to gain some knowledge, when I hopefully complete the review, on the following: the tendering and bidding process involved in the purchasing process, centralized or decentralized, the considerations—price, warranties, quality, durability-- that are made in the purchasing, council deliberations on large purchases, how adjustments are made in the operating analysis budget for projects overruns, and how corporate credit is used and other payments made during transactions. Ideally, I look to gain a fairly decent working knowledge of municipal purchasing process. Purchasing, in my opinion, is an activity every business has to engage in; therefore, the more exposure I have with this process at the municipal level, the more informed and adept I will be if I ever get to be involved in procurement in my future career at the international level.

I consulted with Diane, head of finance, this afternoon about the purchasing policy. Our discussion exposed areas of the policy that needed some review. Internal controls for purchases and the approval process were areas of concern. As well, some other areas of interest were how department heads could find alternatives to move money between projects, and how corporate credit cards could be better used and the limitations on them could also be reviewed. Doug Campbell (fleet management) and Diane Hansen (materials management) are staff I will be talking to next week. I also learnt not to try to reinvent the wheel but rather look at existing policies by other municipalities to help shape my review.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week Four

I had a meeting at the beginning of the week with Damien and Melanie to discuss the progress of the surveillance project. I got to know that Melanie will be my ‘go to person’. We also discussed the possibility of taking on additional projects. My motivation for requesting additional tasks is to get a rounded experience in municipal affairs or gain a decent insight and familiarity with specific municipal projects, as I am hopeful it will be adaptable and transferable to my future career at the international level. Moreover, I have had some downtimes the last couple of weeks; therefore, I was looking forward to have some additional projects to work on. I was encouraged by the positive tone at the meeting to try to get me working on a project that I might find interesting. Melanie informed me later in week that there is the possibility to work on the city’s procurement policy which is somewhat outdated and needed to be reviewed. I am up for the challenge and look forward to next week to see how I can proceed on the second project.

My week was filled with consultations on the surveillance policy with various departments. I consulted with some staff at Public works, Edgeworth, Bill Fowler Centre, the Golf Course Clubhouse, Jubilee Park, and Camrose Airport. The meeting at Public Works was very informative because it was a coordination of the people from IT and 3 guys from the Public works. For the first time, I was able to get an inventory of all the locations that had surveillance cameras. They include the following: Edgeworth (26), Aquatic Center (5), Bill Fowler Centre (4), Golf ClubHouse (4), Jubilee Park (2), 46 St Shop (3), HLPS #3 (1), HLPS #2 (1), SLS (1), Lakeside (1), Public Works (1), City Hall (2 but not operational), Fire Station (Not sure of the number, I need to verify that number when I visit next week), Camrose Airport (2), Water Treatment Plant (1). Furthermore, I got to know some locations that might have cameras installed in the near future.

I was informed about the rational for having the cameras on various locations. The underlying reason for having these cameras was for deterrence and security purposes; however, I also got to know that some surveillance were not just for deterrence and security purposes. Some reasons include collecting data for managing traffic flow on highway 48, and data for managing water levels and monitoring the lake itself. The Lakeside camera was set up for this purpose. As well, the records from some cameras are used for verification purposes. For instance, the records from the airport cameras are used to verify information that maybe filled out by pilots who land the airport, as well as provide footage for inspection claims.

I visited the locations listed above that these cameras were. I was able to see for myself how the cameras were positioned at the various buildings including the following: were these cameras set up inside or outside the facilities; I was able to examine the camera monitors to ascertain if the cameras were capturing the image within the location they were set up for, or were these cameras just recording images out of its location; were there signage beside the cameras; were the cameras in good working condition; were the monitors and controls in a secure room; which staff had access to the camera records; and how the records were stored. After my tour of these locations I got a picture of where things were as it pertained to the access, storage, retention, disclosure, and destruction of the records from the surveillance, as well as the whole set up of the surveillance on the city’s facilities. The staffs that I talked to during my consultation and tour of the facilities were very helpful and cooperative. I didn’t find anyone trying to withhold information. That was reassuring, to say the least. A sentiment that all of them expressed was that, they need a protocol for the surveillance because it’s long overdue. I must say it was encouraging to hear that.

I hope to complete my staff consultation by next week.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Week Three

I worked on my group project, examined some FOIP incident reports, and contacted staff at various city departments (IT Director, Aquatics Director, Community Service Director, and Edgeworth center Director) to consult them on the surveillance project. As well, I will be part of the voluntary staff helping out at the Jaywalkers event this friday, June 3, 2011.

For my group essay I intend to look at how participation by community stakeholders are integral part to a community's sustainability. Therefore, I decided to research some literature on capacity development from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The FAO defined capacity development
as follows:

“the ability of people, organizations and society as a whole to manage their affairs successfully. Capacity development is the process of unleashing, strengthening and maintaining of such capacity".

The UNDP goes further by saying that capacity development is better sustained over the long-term through these four drivers: institutional arrangements, leadership, knowledge and accountability. I do concur with these statements because they align with the municipal sustainability initiatives currently prevailing in various municipalities in Alberta to encourage their viability. Viability is measured based on the following matrix: administrative capacity, regional corporation, infrastructure, financial health, service delivery, risk vulnerability, community’s health, and sustainable governance. The success of these viability indicators will be dependent upon how the process is managed. Viability will be determined by how these four drivers work together in the process in any community development and sustainability. One aspect of the drivers for capacity building that I find encouraging is ‘knowledge building’. I find it encouraging because it helps promotes participation. Without citizenry involvement, through participation, ideas cannot be shared to educate the community. As a key ingredient to capacity building will be the involvement of all community stakeholders, including the youth, to ensure a community’s sustainability. The youth is a key piece to any community or municipality’s long term’s sustainability because not only do they contribute as future resource, but also encouraging them to participate in community initiatives helps contribute to their well being and positive development.

My FOIP research exposed some intricacies about privacy issues in Canada. The issue of privacy is become a sensitive issue in Canada.

There has been an upsurge in the use of data mining to categorize people into groups; in addition to the use of other tools such as CCTV cameras, radio frequency identification (RFID), chips, global positioning system, street imaging software, location trackers, website cookies, facial recognition software and store loyalty cards, social networking cites, and the use of computer programs by security services. Furthermore, some concern was raised by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada about corporations (Information brokers) selling our personal information, and people not really informed about how their privacy is breached on a daily basis post 9/11 when “big brother” is watching without any legislative oversight. Ironically, some research done in Canada provided some really surprising results, even though privacy laws are way stronger in Canada in contrast to the U.K and U.S. A research conducted by the Strategic Counsel in August 2005 found that 72 per cent of Canadians polled support having video cameras in all public places. However, their support failed to take into consideration that to consent to this kind of surveillance should be contigent upon how great the dangers are, and the alternatives for dealing with those dangers. Based on this research, one can fairly posit that the study reinforces how misinformed our citizenry maybe by supporting surveillance (the position that existence of CCTV cameras makes us feel safer) in public places without questioning the profoundness of its intrusiveness.

At the legislative level, there have been several instances where court cases have set controversial precedents. For example the 1990 R.V. Wong case that was deliberated at the Supreme Court. The court stated,

“to permit unrestricted video surveillance by agents of the state would seriously diminish the degree of privacy we can reasonably expect to enjoy in a free society. We must always be alert to the fact that modern methods of electronic surveillance have the potential, if uncontrolled, to annihilate privacy.”

The court statement is an indication that the issue of privacy is going to be one of the challenges in this era because contemporary technology blurs the lines between what is private and public. Another challenge is the hurdle that the privacy commissioner of Canada and his provincial counterparts faces when adjudicating privacy matters. Privacy impact assessments also make the administration of surveillance a daunting effort because of the possibility of violation or breaching citizenry rights. It is not an easy task to adopt a surveillance policy considering the sensitivities with privacy issues; even though, there are guidelines to help various public bodies manage protocols they may institute.

My meeting with the IT department on Tuesday gave me an insight into the state of how things were as per the management of surveillance records and the operation of surveillance equipment under IT's supervision. Moving forward, I will be shaping my discussions with various department heads and staff to include what protocols they have in place for accessing, storing, retaining, disclosing, and destroying surveillance records. Focusing on these areas will help guide the policy discussion to be in line with the FOIP Guide to Using Surveillance Cameras in Public Areas (PDF)Guide to Using Surveillance Cameras in Public Areas (PDF).

My meeting with the Aquatics Director went well. She was enthusiastic about the development of the policy because it will provide a sense of direction as to how long records are to be kept, and a protocol for how to manage the city's surveillance cameras in general.

I met the Community Service Director this morning, June 03, 2011, at 9:30am. He was very supportive of the project, and I got to know the number of city units under his management. Most importantly, I got know that there were some faccilities that have been leased out by his department. The city has access to surveillance records gathered by those who lease city facilities. It was helpful to know this about the renters of city properties because it will help shape my future consultation with other departments. In the coming weeks, I will be asking other departments to list any city properties that have been leased out. This will ensure that if these leased properties have any form of video surveillance the city is aware of.

Sights & Sounds from Jaywalkers

"Alberta: Jasper considers video surveillance :[Final Edition]." The Ottawa Citizen, May 8, 2006, (accessed June 1, 2011).

Anderson, John C. "Brave new world: The impact of access legislation on retention in Alberta municipalities." Records Management Quarterly 29, no. 4 (October 1995): 19. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 30, 2011).

Bridger, Jeffrey C., and A.E. Luloff. 2001. "Building the Sustainable Community: Is Social Capital the Answer?." Sociological Inquiry 71, no. 4: 458-472. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 31, 2011).

Capacity Development Now

Deborah Tetley. "Privacy boss slaps WCB; Client's info was shared :[Final Edition]." Calgary Herald, January 6, 2008, (accessed June 1, 2011).

Don Butler. "Surveillance in society; We're being watched like never before by organizations of all sorts. What are the implications for our lives and our liberties?" Star - Phoenix, February 24, 2009, (accessed June 1, 2011).

Drivers of Change

Developmental Assets Tools

Electronic surveillance: Who is watching you?

Privacy and Technology: More Action Needed. Six Annual Access to Information and Privacy Conference: Technology — Enhancing or Undermining Democracy?

Privacy Commissioner's finding on video surveillance by RCMP in Kelowna.

“Fighting crime with databases.”
Edmonton installs security cameras near downtown bars.

Surveillance cameras keep Canada Day violence down on Whyte Avenue.

The growing fight over personal information.

Steel, Kevin. "Say cheese and keep on walking." Alberta Report / Newsmagazine 25, no. 27 (June 22, 1998): 31. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 30, 2011).