As usual, The Leader checked with municipal officials at the start of a new year to see what’s new, what’s up, what’s down and generally what’s what.
A hoped-for interview with reeve Murray Kerik didn’t happen by press time, but we were able to get CAO Allan Winarski on the phone last week.
The conversation ranged from personnel issues, to the M.D. head office renovation saga to planning priorities and beyond.
“2018 was quite a year!” Winarski said, without elaborating.
Speaking of personnel, Winarski said the vacant (and vital) director of finance position should be filled fairly soon. Interviews have been conducted, the list whittled down to one or two and an in-person visit by the favoured candidate was due any day.
People with the pertinent financial chops – and who are willing to relocate to a northern rural setting – aren’t exactly growing on trees. Winarski said it was looking dire for a bit, but then somebody applied who looked pretty good and….fingers crossed.
The other major vacancy at the M.D. is (or was) in the planning and development department. But the plan there, Winarski said, is to not find a single person to be development officer.
“We’ve reorganized that function,” he says. “We’ll use existing people. We’ll be spreading some of the work out.”
Taking up the load on development work will be a trio of current employees; Ag Fieldman Barry Kolenowski, Director of Rural Services Russ Jassman, and Ann Holden in the Slave Lake office.
“If we can train our people to handle 75 per cent of the work that’s pretty basic,” Winarski said, the rest can be farmed out to contracted experts.
“We’re setting up a quality control agency behind the scenes,” he said. “It’ll be a team approach, with consultants.”
Having an efficient development approval system is important for all sorts of reasons. A balance needs to be found between priorities that often are in some degree of conflict. This often plays out at the council table; on one side there’s the desire to stimulate development; on the other there’s the need to make sure the rules are followed.
“It’s time to clear up red tape,” Winarski said.
How that may play out in practical terms remains to be seen.
Economic development is much on the minds of M.D. councillors these days. Discussions on a regional approach continue (with Town of Slave Lake and Sawridge First Nation partners).
“They’re working towards some agreement on funding,” Winarski said.
The M.D.’s main office near Slave Lake has been mostly unusable for several months now, due to a renovation project that grew much bigger than anticipated. Operations have been dispersed to a couple of locations – a trailer in the yard and at the visitor information centre.
“It’s getting there,” Winarski says, of the reno project. “A couple of weeks, we should be in there.”