Jan. 10, 2018 meeting
Council made a change to its honorarium policy, following up a resolution made at a council meeting just prior to last fall’s election. That motion – put forward by councillor Mike Skrynyk – was for more disclosure of what councillors are getting paid for attending meetings and the like.
CAO Allan Winarski, presenting the report, reminded councillors that information on council honoraria has always been available, but not as easily or as quickly as some would like. The new clause in the policy reads like this: ‘Disclosure of all honoraria and expenses of the reeve and councillors shall be made available publically on the Municipal District website and in the Milestones publication.”
Some councillors are busier than others, Winarski pointed out, and this results in an apparent discrepancy in honoraria totals. Some are on more committees and have more time for such involvement.
“It has to be taken in context,” he said. “No number stands in isolation.”
Out of the discussion on honoraria disclosure arose several related questions. One was about uncompensated attendance at meetings on behalf of council. For example, three councillors recently spent a few hours meeting with the Pembina Hills School Division. That time is not covered under the M.D.’s honorarium policy. Should it be?
Winarski said compensation for such meetings is not out of the question. If in doubt, come back and discuss it with council and make a resolution, he advised.
Councillor Brad Pearson had some thoughts on the subject.
“We should be talking about these things beforehand,” he said. “There’s only so much money in the bag.”
Pearson also suggested sending one councillor instead of three.
Council passed a motion by councilor Jeff Commins to remunerate the three councillors who attended the Pembina Hills meeting.
Sticking on the topic of meeting attendance, councillor Jeff Commins pointed out that it’s inconvenient, to say the least, for the council rep on the regional library board. Why? Because she (Becky Peiffer, from Smith) has a four-hour wait (roughly) between the end of the regular council meeting and the start of the library board meeting. That makes for an awfully long day.
“If it’s not working maybe there should be a re-appointment?” suggested CAO Allan Winarski. “You might have to do some horse trading, but that’s politics.”
Getting out into the community
Following up on a resolution made last year, council settled on dates for holding some council meetings in communities in 2018. Proposed are April 11 in Flatbush, May 9 in Smith and June 27 in Widewater. These would take the place of the regular council meetings at the head office in Slave Lake.
As to the time of day for these meetings, it was left open. Councillor Brian Rosche suggested they be held later in the day.
Council also talked about setting up a strategic planning session, but did not settle on a date. It has to be some day when all seven council members are available, Winarski said.
Also mentioned was a land-use planning review, which is overdue for attention now that the inter-municipal agreements are wrapped up. Councillor Robert Esau asked if the review would be for the entire M.D. or just for the Poplar Lane area.
“The whole shooting match,” said Winarski. “It’s going to be messy. That’s life. But we’re going to get through it.”
Council appointed Charlotte Measor as member-at-large from the M.D. to the Slave Lake Regional Library Board, and Debbie Parsons to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB). That leaves three positions still vacant. There were no applications for the two member-at-large positions on the Weed Control Act Appeal Panel and Ag Pest Act Appeal Panel or the other vacant position on the SDAB.
As for filling those positions, Winarski urged councillors to keep their eyes peeled in their communities.
Rural education symposium
Councillors learned that Aspen View Public School Division had invited the M.D. to participate in a symposium on rural schools, happening in Edmonton in early March. It comes with some expense. The question before council: should we go?
“I would be very interested in going to this,” said councillor Sandra Melzer.
“Same here,” said councillor Peiffer. “It speaks a lot to keeping our rural communities alive.”
Pearson: “Do we get the info by sending one person, or two?”
Rosche: “I support sending (both).”
Esau: “Me too. Representatives from two different school divisions.”
Council passed a motion approving the cost of sending two councillors to the symposium.
Winarski had an analysis of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council’s new Integrated Watershed Management Plan before council. It’s a big document, representing several years of work by a consultant with contributions from a lot of other people. It contains 78 recommendations, Winarski said, containing 196 specific actions.
“This is not a legislative document,” he reminded council. “But you will face community pressure to live up to the obligations. We want to do the right thing.”
The right thing – or things – include efforts to reduce erosion, promoting responsible OHV use, protecting shoreline habitat and generally not interfering with water quality as much as possible.
“A lot of this stuff is handled by appropriate setbacks,” Winarski said. “We can integrate some of it into our activities.”
Councillor Brad Pearson, who sits on the watershed council, said he thinks “the comments are really good. I appreciate the time that went into it. It’s been a monumental task.”
Councillor Esau was skeptical.
“It bothers me that it never mentioned the right to make a living – to enjoy the land,” he said.
Winarski: “It gives consideration to social and economic values,” he said.
Council approved an additional expense on the new pumphouse/water intake project at Wagner for buried power lines. That’s how much more they cost than overhead lines.
“We’re going to recoup that money anyway,” said Winarski.
“Government doesn’t always work the way you think it does,” said CAO Allan Winarski. “Are there more positive ways of engaging government that we haven’t thought of?”
These were Winarski’s remarks prefacing a suggestion that the M.D. might want to send one of its councillors and CAO to a Grant MacEwan University course called ‘Lobbying Government Effectively.’
“I think we should,” said reeve Murray Kerik. “It’s a weakness we have.”
Council passed a motion to send councillor Rosche and CAO Winarski to the Mar. 14 course.
Biting the bullet on AFRRCS
First responders are moving to a new type of digital communications technology, council heard. Known by its acronym AFRRCS, it stands for Alberta First Responder Radio Communications System.
“This is one of them,” said reeve Murray Kerik, holding up a hand-held radio type of thing, then tossing it on the floor. “They’re indestructible.”
They also cost about $7,000 per unit.
“We’ve got to bite the bullet on it,” he said. “It’s a question of this year or next.”
This was during a presentation by Town of Slave Lake CAO Brian Vance on the regional fire service’s 2018 capital budget. In the budget is around $53,000 for AFRRCS units for the service.
On the operations side of the budget, Vance said there are “tweaks, but no huge adjustments.”
The biggest change from the 2017 numbers is the depreciation item, “because we bought a new building and a new truck.”
Councillor Pearson questioned the $60,000 budgeted for overtime. That’s up from the $42,000 in last year’s budget.
It more closely reflects reality, Vance said.
“The fact is these guys get called out 24/7 and we have to pay them.”
Economic development and tourism
Council talked a bit about economic development and its future as something the M.D. supports. There’s a sub-committee of the Regional Tri-Council that looks after ec/dev and has some money. Under its banner is a separate project on tourism promotion. That involves the establishment of a tourism society. It shows promise, said councillor Esau, “but it’s not a born baby yet.”
“Is there anything tangible or measurable?” asked councillor Rosche.
“If this DMO and DMF come in and work it would be a good accomplishment,” said Esau.
Reeve Kerik’s view is that apart from tourism, efforts to stimulate economic development have produced zero results. “But I see a lot of opportunity for tourism.”
It’s an important question, because tri-council money for ec/dev is going to run out, and then the parties are going to have to decide if it’s worth it to keep it going.
Such matters will have to be on a tri-council agenda.
“The tri-council is where we let this horse out of the chute and let ‘er buck,” said Winarski.
Pembina Hills SD
From a recent meeting with the Pembina Hills School Division, reeve Kerik had some figures. Fifty-seven kids resident in the M.D. ride buses to Pembina Hills schools. Of those, 39 attend school in Dapp and the rest go to schools in Westlock. The average length of ride to Dapp is 56 minutes.
“There is no way to shorten it,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do.”
Another thing learned at the meeting, according to councillor Esau, is that Dapp school “is over-kidded. Westlock Elementary is under-utilized.”
LS Regional Housing – councillor Commins reported that the housing authority is talking about the possibility of building a 26-unit affordable housing complex “somewhere” in Slave Lake. He made a point of not being more specific than that about the location.
Homeland Housing – councillor Melzer said a 48-unit building is being planned for Morinville.
Legacy Centre – Reeve Kerik said discussion continue with the Elks Club. The Legacy board may be taking over the bookings. “We just have to figure out how to make it work for us,” he said.