M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

April 12, 2017 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Speed signs in Flatbush
It’s been so long since there were young children in Flatbush, said councillor Robert Esau, that people are used to not slowing down much when they drive through. But that has changed, and now there’s a safety concern.
“We’ve got two new families with little kids,” he said. “It’s really good for the community.”
Esau’s request: that the M.D. post speed limit signs.
“A reduced limit?” asked councillor Brian Rosche.
“No,” said Esau. “Just to obey what’s there.”
CAO Allan Winarski said he figured the M.D. could find some signs in its inventory.

Gravel haulers want to know
Councillor Esau brought up another item from his end of the M.D. Local gravel haulers have been asking him what the M.D.’s intentions are with regard to this year’s M.D. gravel haul.
“The haulers want to know if they still have jobs,” he said.
Councillor Rosche said if it’s a project worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, it should go through the tender process.
To that, Esau responded, “I’m in favour of staying with our core group of truckers. So far it’s never been a contract. Some of these guys have worked for the M.D. for 20 years.” He also said the local haulers tend to behave better on local roads than outside contractors do.
Councillor Brad Pearson’s view on the situation was that the M.D. shouldn’t be paying by the hour, because in his view it’s inefficient.
“Figure something out and come back (with it),” said councillor Mike Skrynyk.
Council passed a motion to have administration draft a process for hiring haulers for this year’s gravel program, (which will be bigger than usual).

Support for SCDC
The SCDC (otherwise known as the Smith Community Development Council) is applying for a grant for its effort to spruce up the hamlet. Council quickly voted in favour of providing a letter of support.
In other news from the group, councillor Darren Fulmore said it wants to hang pictures from light standards in the hamlet. He showed examples of the pictures, which appeared to be mostly paintings of fish and other animals. M.D. permission is needed before ATCO will give the go-ahead. Council passed the appropriate motion.
Still more from the SCDC: it wants to remove the old Smith library sign and replace it with a planter. Also, the flagpole needs to be freed from encroaching trees so the Scouts can put a flag on it.
Councillor Brad Pearson suggested there should be a new library sign, with a similar design to the new M.D. signs. Fulmore’s idea was that it should be located closer to the driveway leading into the library.
Council approved Pearson’s motion to find a new spot for a new sign.

Pump station at Wagner

Clearing of trees by the Widewater Complex for a future water pumping station has a few people riled up.
“I had some people hollering in my ear about it,” said councillor Pearson, who added the item to the day’s agenda. “It’s a real mess out there.”
Pearson had the pictures to prove it.
Winarski said the contractor will be going in to clean up the debris.
“Once it’s cleaned up you’ll have something that’s different, but it’ll be good.”
Pearson also was concerned about the bridge next to the site; he said vehicles can drive on it and it’s not rated for trucks. Winarski said concrete barriers are there, but somebody keeps moving them. Set them up to allow ATVs through, Rosche suggested.

Homeland insecurity
Another Pearson addition to the agenda had to do with how the new Homeland Housing Authority does its requisitions. His worry (not the first time he’s expressed it) is that if the boundary between that authority and the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Housing Authority is not clearly defined, some residents might get dinged twice on the seniors’ housing portion of their tax bills.
“It’s being lumped together,” he said. “We shouldn’t be affected on this end.”
Winarski said he’d look into it.

The assessment story: downward trend
Council had its annual gab session with the company it engages to do property tax assessment, Accurate Assessment. There were no big surprises. For example, it wasn’t exactly news that the total value of assessable property in the M.D. has declined. From a high of $1.8 billion in 2014, it dropped to $1.65 billion last year. On the plus side, 18 wells were drilled in the M.D. last year, as opposed to zero in 2015. But the big picture on oil and gas wells shows that only 652 of the 2,303 wells in the M.D. are producing.
From the ‘things are bad but they could be worse,’ department, council heard that the M.D.’s two per cent drop in industrial assessment looks better when compared to the five to 10 per cent decrease some M.D.s and counties have experienced.
The Accurate reps had some news about Bill #21, by which the provincial government proposes to take over industrial assessment from municipalities. A three-year transition period has been proposed. Municipal access to the assessment formula is an issue, council heard, and Accurate is lobbying for this.

College: good news and more coming
Northern Lakes College President Ann Everatt reported to council on the state of affairs in that institution. They seem to be pretty good: 900-plus graduates last year, a new campus just announced for High Prairie, lots of new programs and more coming.
One of those new programs is the EMT/Paramedic, just completing its first year.
“I’m glad to see it take off,” said reeve Murray Kerik.
“It took a bit of finesse,” said Everatt.
“The college is a great asset for our region,” said councillor Brian Rosche.
“We’re not finished,” said Everatt, referring to continued efforts to secure funding for an expansion of the Slave Lake campus.

Borrowing and lending
Council made the necessary motions to borrow money on behalf of the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Housing Authority, per an agreement made earlier. The RHA can’t borrow from the Alberta Capital Finance Corporation, but the M.D. can. So the M.D., acting as banker, borrows, then adds half a point on the interest and everybody benefits.
Presenting the report, Jason Warawa said over the full term, the M.D. stands to earn about $100,000 on the transaction.

Board reports
Regional housing – councillor Brad Pearson said vacancies are an issue in the lodge lately.
“Unfortunately, people come and people go,” he said.
Asked how big the problem is, councillor Mike Skrynyk said six or eight units. There are vacancies in the social housing inventory as well.
On the Homeland Housing side (Westlock, in other words), councillor Robert Esau said vacancy was “virtually nothing.”

Pembina Zone – Parkland County created a bit of a buzz at a recent meeting of this group of rural municipalities when it proposed a licensing fee on ATVs. Its idea, council heard, was to create a fund that would be used to maintain designated trails.
Councillor Pearson, who was at the meeting, spoke up against the proposal.
“There was quite a bit of opposition, mainly led by myself. They’re painting (all of) Alberta with the same brush. It just rubbed me wrong.”
Parkland has withdrawn its proposal and plans to re-introduce it with some changes. If approved by the zone, it will go before the membership of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties at its annual convention. If adopted there, the AAMD&C would then lobby the provincial government.
Another interesting item from the Pembina Zone had to do with the new requirement for inter-municipal agreements. In the case of Barrhead and the County of Barrhead, this is proving difficult on the recreation side. Mediation failed and arbitration is the next step.
“Keep good minutes!” said Pearson.
The group also heard from an economist who predicted two per cent growth in Alberta’s economy this year, and oil in the high 60s.

Watershed council – Councillor Rosche reported that the annual general meeting for the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council is June 16 in Faust. In other news, 18 sites for water quality testing are planned for this year. Also, water barrels are for sale for $65.
On May 9 a Green Acreages workshop will take place in Slave Lake.

Flax and hemp, but mostly hemp
Reeve Kerik had attended a workshop in Whitecourt on growing flax and hemp. He came back a fan of hemp, and had a container of seeds to prove it, which he offered to his colleagues to munch.
“It’s wonderful stuff,” he said – of hemp’s qualities generally. “You can eat it, you can wear it and you can build with it. It pays better than canola.”
Demand is higher than processing capacity at the moment, Kerik added, but a new plant under construction at Nisku should help.

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