July 12, 2017
No thanks on signs
As much as the M.D. may agree with the message and intent in a couple of lakeshore sign proposals, it prefers not to take on more work and more expense.
That was the gist of CAO Allan Winarski’s recommendation to council on the two proposals. Thanks, but no thanks, was the message (more or less) approved by council, along with the suggestion in both cases that the provincial park might be a good place to locate the signs.
That way, said Winarski, somebody else can look after them.
One proposal, from Alberta Environment and Parks, was for several signs in the ‘Respect Our Lakes,’ program to be placed on the shore of Lesser Slave Lake, somewhere in the M.D.
The other proposal, from the Lesser Slave Watershed Council, was for an informative sign called ‘Living on the Edge,’ to be place at the M.D.’s Wagner kiosk.
“If we end up slapping signs all over the place it ends up looking like Watson Lake,” said Winarski.
Councillors did a favour for whoever succeeds them this fall; booked seats for the new councillors at an orientation session for councillors in Westlock, Dec. 7 and 8. Winarski said the Municipal Government Act does not require such training, but that is changing. Typically, new councillors get an in-house orientation session.
The Westlock session is one of several locations and dates that were available; it was deemed the most convenient.
Bad debts: how to handle them
Bad debts are always part of the picture for a municipality. The M.D. hasn’t had a policy on them, council heard, but for the sake of consistency, needs one.
“We’ve been using ‘best efforts,’” explained director of finance Jason Warawa. “It’s been largely working, but…. Things have changed.”
Warawa and his team had laid out a policy formalizing the process of collecting (or attempting to) bad debts. It lays out under what circumstances customers’ water will be shut off, for example. It also sets thresholds for declaring bad debts as ‘written off.’
The policy allows for some flexibility, Warawa said.
“As no two debts are ever the same, there is a need for some discretion to deviate from the process,” he said in his written report. “Sometimes you have to be aggressive and sometimes you have to lay back and try to work with the people.”
Next month, Warawa added, he’ll be bringing council a list of debts, “we want to write off.”
Contract for secure records building
In the budget this year is $38,000 for a secure records storage building separate from the main M.D. admin building. Serving this purpose is a shipping container in the public works yard, which council heard is not working well. The lowest bid on the new building, however, came in $10,000 over budget.
“When preparing the tender, it became apparent that the scope of the project would have to be increased to ensure adequate security provisions for sensitive information,” said Bill Klassen in his written report for council.
Council accepted the recommendation to award the contract to Torkelson Contracting for $48,679.75. Councillor Robert Esau’s motion included the direction to “find the money inside your budget somehow.”
Wrangling Chisholm pit access
The M.D. is facing a bit of a dilemma when it comes to access to a gravel pit in the Chisholm area. The only road to it goes through private land, and the owner wants the M.D. to pay for its use, at the rate of 25 cents per tonne hauled over it. As council was informed, the M.D. is not allowed by policy to pay such a fee. On the other hand, council was advised, the same road goes through M.D. property and there’s an opportunity for some quid pro quo.
Council wrangled over the matter for some time, with different ones taking different sides in what almost became a heated debate. But eventually all agreed that some sort of a road use agreement between the property owner and the M.D. is desirable and ought to be achievable. It could well involve the M.D. paying a bit of money for the privilege, since the gentleman’s piece of the access road is longer than the M.D.’s piece by about 300 metres.
Several other options were listed for council’s consideration (but not necessarily recommended). They included abandoning plans to use the M.D. pit; however this would raise re-graveling costs, as would pretty much every other scenario.
CAO Winarski seemed optimistic something could be worked out.
“Give me the guidance to work the spread on this thing and get an agreement,” he said.
The M.D. has been unable to haul gravel from its Chisholm pit since 2015.
Pre-approval on three projects
Transportation director Bill Klassen asked council to depart from tradition by approving low bids on three projects without actually seeing the bids. The reason, he explained, was that with no second council meeting this month, and the tender period ending on July 13, there would be a risk of summer running out before the jobs get done if there are further delays.
The three jobs are as follows: Slave Lake and Smith walking paths, Marten Beach wooden walkways and Slave Lake admin building roof work.
Why so late getting to these in the first place? asked councillor Darren Fulmore.
“We cleaned up our tendering process,” Klassen said. “Legal was involved. We’re a little more confident now moving forward.”
French Creek bridge
There’s been some erosion of the abutments at the French Creek bridge in the southern part of the M.D., council heard. Beavers are apparently responsible, and engineers are required to get it fixed. There was some grumbling about this, but Klassen said it is necessary, for two reasons. One is that it’s a fish-spawning body of water and as such has particular rules for any work that goes on in the creek bed. The other is that the bridge is scheduled for replacement in two or three years, so any improvements have to be done a certain way.
Council accepted the report as information.
Flatbush shoulder pull
Bids on the Flatbush-area shoulder-pull program came in too rich, council heard. So staff gone on the phone and found a contractor working not far away (who apparently hadn’t bid on the job), was willing to do it for a more reasonable amount. Council approved an agreement with Re-Call Gravel Systems Ltd. to do “the majority of the shoulder pull,” for $146,088.
Councillor Fulmore asked what determines when a shoulder pull becomes necessary. This prompted a few wisecracks, such as ‘when you can pass comfortably on it.’
But as explained by Bill Klassen, it’s when the road gets packed down and spread out wider than it should be, and water tends to pool on the surface instead of running off. The shoulder pull is the process of pushing the gravel back up onto the road, which results in a narrower, arched surface.
Repairs to water facilities
Utilities manager Lyle Farris reported that the water plant in Smith is back to full production, after some faulty membranes were repaired or replaced. The work cost an estimated $8,000
Some programming problems at the new reservoir in Widewater were also being looked after, Farris said. The same goes for some deficiencies in the concrete.
“When are we going to use that $5 million baby?” asked councillor Brad Pearson.
“When I get it fixed,” said Farris.
The plan is to supply Southshore water customers by gravity from the new reservoir at night, giving the pumps at the Canyon Creek plant a break.
Chair lift for Flatbush
The M.D. would like to put a chair lift to the second floor of the Flatbush Community Complex. Grants are available for such enhancements to accessibility and council approved, as requested, an application for one of them. If successful, it would be for up to $50,000. The M.D. would have to kick in a portion of the cost as well.
Slave Lake north water line
The M.D. appears to be reconsidering its decision to not get involved in a Town of Slave Lake water line replacement project in the north end of town. This is the old, malfunctioning line that serves a few M.D. customers along the north end of Main St. A month or two ago, after a request from the town for the M.D. to pay a proportionate share of a new line, M.D. council voted against it. The town responded by more or less deciding to abandon the line, and serve its three customers on that portion of Main St. from a new line going in on Tamarack Rd. This would have left the M.D. customers high and dry. Since then, apparently, things have developed.
“We’ve been working with the town,” said Winarski. “We’re up against it for water there.”
The town is working on a design, Winarski continued, and will come back to both councils with costs.
“Our citizens out there on pins and needles will know things are going to work out.”