M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Jan. 30, 2019 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Fire service reviewing training, looking at mental health

One of the more interesting items in fire chief Jamie Coutts’s quarterly update for council had to do with mental health. There’s a big push on for attention to be paid to this aspect, thanks to a spike in suicides among first responders in recent years. It’s becoming expected for an organization to provide some sort of program to deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome, for example. How to do that, for a small-town service, is a challenge, Coutts said.
Training on how to deal with exposure to difficult and disturbing scenarios is part of the picture. There were three such occurrences in the period running from the end of last year into the beginning of this one.
In the first case, the firefighters spent seven hours putting out a fire at a local mill, in frigid conditions.
“Five days later,” Coutts said, “a lady ran into the back of a log truck. She was lucky to survive.”
Not long after that, a vehicle drove into a parked truck on the highway south of Flatbush and the driver was pinned inside for 2 ½ hours.
“You’re pretty shocked when you pull up to stuff like that,” Coutts said.
Besides the psychological impact, those types of calls require top-level training. As it happens, they occurred just when the department was reviewing its training standards and trying to figure out how much is adequate and how to afford it.
The future of the Mitsue Fire Hall came up in the conversation, as it usually does. Coutts said there are just five active members of the hall, which puts it 10 below the recommended complement. He said it’s being regarded as ‘a bit of a sub-station’ to Hall #1 these days.
The plan is to organize a meeting with the major players in the Mitsue Industrial Park to see about boosting the number of volunteers from the mills. Speaking on that, CAO Allan Winarski acknowledged it is difficult for businesses to let their people go to fire calls. On the other hand, they benefit from other volunteers who respond to fire calls at the mills – in effect being subsidized by the companies they work for.
Another ticklish issue that arose in the conversation has to do with how much the province reimburses the department for responding to emergencies on provincial highways. Coutts said it’s $640 per hour, based on one truck and five firefighters. It’s a good program, he said, but the amount is too low. About double that would come closer to covering the actual cost.
“That’s good to know,” said councillor Brad Pearson. “We can lobby for that.”

Ec/dev policy approved

After many meetings and much discussion, council was ready to approve a policy expressing its stance on economic development. It will not, for starters, participate in the hiring of an economic development officer. It will, however, remain open to joining its regional tri-council partners on a case-by-case basis.
The new policy asserts four principles, by which the M.D. hopes to encourage economic development. They are:

  1. Low rates of taxation
  2. Low development levies and fees
  3. Reduce administrative red tape, and
  4. Use fees for service so customers can adapt their behaviours accordingly to what they consume
    Council voted in favour of a Becky Peiffer motion to adopt the new policy.

FireSmart

Funds for this program are getting low. How to use those that are left was discussed at a mid-January Regional Tri-Council brainstormer. According to a report for council by Winarski, “directions forward” for the program include:
Combining FireSmart education efforts with other public education programs – i.e. fire prevention and Ag Service Board stuff.
Collaborating with FMA holders, land administrators and grazing interests
Reconsidering the role of the FireSmart Committee
Added verbally to the report by Winarski was the possibility of a research program (involving the University of Alberta) into using livestock in vegetation management.
Look for more on this topic in reports on upcoming meetings of the tri-council.

Time for repeal

Council gave the boot to a parcel of obsolete bylaws, on the recommendation of admin. These included one on hospital wards for the old I.D. 17, something on the non-existent Conservation and Reclamation Council, local improvement levies for certain lots in Marten Beach (long since paid), Slave Lake Air/Ground Ambulance (defunct), a couple of borrowing bylaws and something on assessment of temporary homes.

Chucking old policies

Council did a similar axe job on a passell of policies that are no longer useful. For example, a 1999 policy on smoking in the workplace isn’t needed, since provincial legislation superseded it in 2007. The same goes for a couple of policies on grants.
“A number of oldies but goodies,” said Winarski. “We’re cleaning house here.”

Care conference

Councillors Robert Esau and Brad Pearson would like to attend the Alberta CARE conference at the end of February in High River. It’s one where municipalities and others get together to discuss the latest in the world of recycling.
“What does CARE stand for?” asked councillor Peiffer.
It started as Northern CARE in the Peace Country,” Winarski explained, and was adopted by the whole province. He didn’t get around to answering the question though: (CARE stands for ‘Coordinated Action for Recycling Enterprises.’)
Council gave its blessing to the attendance of the two councillors.

Board reports

Ag Service Board – Councillors Esau and Melzer had attended the recent ASB provincial conference and had things to say about it. There was a lot of talk about the new Canada Food Guide, Melzer said, notably that it “promotes less meat.”
Also discussed at the conference was a “disconnect” between urban consumers and food producers.
“The average citizen is very distant from the farm,” Melzer said.
The conclusion is that producers need to do more to publicize the “best practices” they are engaged in.
One thing Esau learned at the conference was that “every second suicide in this province is on the farm.”
Esau said former politician Danielle Smith did a good job as moderator of the conference.
Said reeve Murray Kerik: “She would have been premier if she hadn’t crossed the floor.”
Another tidbit from the conference, courtesy of Esau: A one-cent change in the value of the Canadian dollar translates into a $13 to $16 difference per hundredweight of beef.

Community Education Committee – Councillor Peiffer said Ernie Shanahan is the new chair and Joy McGregor is vice chair of this group. Workshops are being discussed for later this year. Possible topics are nutrition, anger management, mindfulness and Indigenous crafts. There have also been suggestions about courses in budgeting for people who use the food bank, and maybe basic cooking.

SL Regional Housing – The much-discussed ‘sea can’ affordable housing project is looking for a project manager, reported councillor Pearson. The request for proposals on that closed Jan. 15. Pearson said the project is in two phases. The first one is to be located in “the low-rental area” in the northwest part of town.

Lesser Slave Regional Waste – Pearson reported a “good-sized mountain” of concrete is growing at the landfill. There’s a proposal to get it processed so it can be used on M.D. roads. The estimated cost is $150,000.

Library board – Councillor Peiffer reported the board has a new member and is at full complement. Trouble caused by homeless (so-called) people continues to be a problem at the Slave Lake library, Peiffer said. People can be banned for three months, and it is happening.
The board is taking over management of the Slave Lake Legacy Scholarship. This is the scholarship created from the sale of the book ‘The Sky Was on Fire,’ about the 2011 wildfire disaster.

Pembina Zone (of the Rural Municipalities Association) – Ominous news is that the MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) is probably going to decline.
“It’s going to cause us some grief, because we don’t have much population,” said councillor Pearson. I.e – places with more population will get the bulk of available dollars for municipal infrastructure projects.
Winarski: “Hopefully we’re not hooped, but if it’s 1993 all over again, we probably are.”

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