‘Huge rise’ in vehicle thefts in 2018 says Staff Sgt.

M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Feb. 13, 2019 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

‘Really good out in the M.D.’

Next on council’s agenda was an update from RCMP Staff Sgt. John Spaans. He said, “it’s been really good out in the M.D.” lately, meaning not many calls.
For the year 2018, 793 requests for service to the Slave Lake detachment (of 4,906 total) were from the M.D. That’s pretty similar to last year, Spaans said, but well down from the high of 1,100 in 2014.
“Saturday is the busiest day,” Spaans said, and motor vehicle collisions were the biggest single reason for calls. Mischief was next.
Mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) has been in place for a couple of months. This is the program that allows officers to demand a breath test of drivers, no matter what they’ve been pulled over for. Spaans said of 15 impaired driving files in that period, nine have come from MAS.
Theft of vehicles is happening a lot. In 2018 the detachment dealt with 62 thefts – 15 of them in the M.D.
“A huge rise over last year,” said Spaans. “Mostly it’s pickups, mostly running in the driveway or on the street.”
Spaans was asked about security in the hospital in Slave Lake. There have been a couple of incidents. Councillor Sandra Melzer told him about one Spaans hadn’t heard of.
It’s an ongoing issue, he said. Alberta Health Services has its own security, but it is spread pretty thin. The RCMP gets called and attends, “but we can’t stay.”
Councillor Pearson talked about mailbox theft at Canyon Creek. He said there’s worry in the community that if it keeps up, Canada Post might abandon mail delivery in the community.
“It’s hard to catch them in the act,” said Spaans, “but when they go into RBC to cash a cheque…”
Spaans speculated that it was probably “somebody passing through,” who did it. There’s quite a lot of that sort of thing going on all over the province.
On a related note, Spaans said RCMP has had a couple of successes lately, catching traveling thieves. In one case, somebody hit an oilfield site near Hondo, loading up – among other things – some batteries. They had GPS on them, he said, and were traced to a scrap dealer in the city. Two people have been caught and a third one is being sought.
The other incident was a theft of copper wire from an ATCO site.
“Westlock guys (police) found the guy sleeping on the side of the road with a bale of copper wire,” Spaans said.
Speaking of Westlock RCMP, they don’t show up very much in the Flatbush area, said reeve Murray Kerik. At least that’s the impression, locally. And when calls are made, it takes them so long to get there, “it’s getting to where nobody’s even making a report.”
Spaans’ last bit of news was about “a significant drug bust in Slave Lake.” He called it “the biggest in 15 years or so,” and said it could result in a drop in property crimes, many of which are connected to the drug trade.

New in finance

Council’s Feb. 13 meeting started off with an introduction. Pat Sibilleau is the new director of finance, replacing Jason Warawa. She comes to the M.D. from Vernon B.C., said her boss Allan Winarski, presenting her to council.

Alberta Energy Regulator

Council got a primer on what the Alberta Energy Regular is and does from a couple of its employees. They were interrupted plenty by questions from councillors, but got through the slide show. All in all it was an informative session, with a few surprises.
“Boy, I learned something today!” said councillor Brad Pearson.
Pearson had been surprised to learn, for example, that the AER can prescribe the rate at which oil can be withdrawn from a field.
There were lots of questions about responsibility for abandoned wells. The obligation lasts for as long as a company owns a lease, said Esther Johnson of AER. If it’s sold, the responsibility goes to the new owner.
As of 2017, council heard, 170,000 wells in Alberta are abandoned. That’s 37 per cent of the total.
“Companies walk away,” said Lesley Marchant, the other AER rep. “We’re trying to bring the licensee into compliance.”
The AER succeeded the ERCB in 2012 and has beefed up its presence in Slave Lake. It has three agents based here; also one in High Prairie and one in Falher in this zone. AER has 1,200 employees, province-wide.

Community Assistance Board

The M.D. of Lesser Slave River’s Community Assistance Board met to review applications for grants from community groups and make decisions. Chaired by Brad Pearson, it held its discussions in camera and decided the following:
Widewater Athletic Association – $4,000 to help cover the cost of the 60th anniversary edition of Widewater Sports Days this year.
French Creek Community Association – $2,000 for costs associated with running and maintaining the community hall.
Smith Traildusters – $4,000 for the replacements of wooden fences on the grounds with ones made of pipe.
44 North Hockey Club – $450 to help pay for officials.
Slave Lake Gymnastics Association – decision tabled until the group has a place to put the equipment it needs money for.
Canyon Creek Recreation Association – $1,500 toward the cost of the Debbie Seppola Memorial Canada Day Parade.

Names for new streets

Council was asked to consider names for three streets in the Timber Ridge Subdivision in Wagner.
“We are getting some forward motion,” director of rural services Russ Jassman told council.
Proposed were Timber Ridge, Timber Meadow Drive and Timber Reid Road.
“Are these roads meeting standards,” asked councillor Pearson.
“That’s yet to come,” said Jassman.
Council approved all three names.


Council approved financial contributions to three community organizations based in Smith, out of the M.D.’s Family and Community Support Services budget. Gentle Ben Care Society was approved for $15,000 and SHARA for $1,700 and the Smith Early Intervention Association for $12,660.
Gentle Ben’s request was less than last year. Peggy Laing told council, “they’ve been working very hard to find other grants.”
The SHARA request was for three community events – one on Family Day, one at Easter and one on July 1.
The SECIA one is for a nursery school program.

Metal cladding for the main office

Council bit the bullet and approved the low bid for a type of metal cladding for the main M.D. office building. Councillor Brad Pearson voted against the motion, saying “Once again, we’re stuck with a pill that’s tough to swallow.”
The insulated metal panel system was recommended after renovations revealed the stucco system walls were badly degraded by moisture, drafty and mouldy.
The cost of the cladding job will be $116,124. Winning the contract was Southwest Design & Construction Ltd.

M.D. and town working things out

The Town of Slave Lake and M.D. agreements have been hashed out for another year. The numbers for 2019 will be about the same, said councillor Pearson.
“I was actually really impressed,” said reeve Kerik. “It was productive; we’re all striving for the same things.”
The Legacy Centre was one of the topics. It’ll have a deficit, Kerik said, but much less than originally anticipated. Discussed was an idea of putting money each year into a reserve fund, against future expenditures. Kerik said he likes the idea.

Busy at the libraries

Councillor Becky Peiffer reported on the latest from the regional library board. The stats from 2018 show lots going on, including volunteers helping out. In Slave Lake, 30 volunteers put in 224 hours last year; in Smith it was 19 volunteers and 204 hours; in Flatbush, two volunteers put in 306 hours!
Slave Lake library had 25,800 visits in 2018; Smith had 15,000 and Flatbush 1,850, Peiffer reported.
Attending programs were 6,784 people in Slave Lake (399 sessions), 50 sessions and 580 people Smith and 522 people attending 30 sessions in Flatbush.

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