M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Aug. 23, 2017

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

‘Ongoing and visible’
In his CAO update for council, CAO Allan Winarski let his written report speak for itself, except for the Poplar Lane paving project, which he felt deserved a bit more of a plug. He called it “exciting things.” The project was 35 per cent complete as of the time of the report.
Speaking of progress in general on various M.D. summer projects, Winarski added, “There’s no moss growing under people’s feet here.”
The road re-graveling program, for example, was listed in his report as 81 per cent complete in the Slave Lake area, 73 per cent in the Smith area and 17 per cent in the Flatbush area, with crushing being the delaying factor there.
Councillor Robert Esau said the gravel work “looks great,” but expressed concern about the beating Tieland Road is taking from the gravel haul.
“It’ll be fixed when we’re done,” said roads boss Bill Klassen.

Canyon Creek beach boundary
Following up on the item discussed at the Aug. 8 council meeting, admin had a price for surveying lakeside lots west of the Jean-Luc Deba Memorial Park in Canyon Creek. It comes to $3,200, which council approved after a brief discussion.
The need for the survey arose due to conflicts between members of the public using the beach and property owners who believe their lots extend to the edge of the lake.
“It’s needed,” said councillor Brad Pearson. “It’s important for the public to know where they can and can’t go.”
Pearson asked if permanent lot boundary markers would be put up. That should be the goal, said Winarski.
Councillor Darren Fulmore: “It doesn’t make sense to survey and not mark it.”

Visit with Suez
Several councillors and the CAO visited an outfit called Suez and didn’t have to go to Egypt to do it. Suez North America is the operator of the waste treatment plant near Swan Hills. The upshot was that most of them are feeling a lot more comfortable with what goes on there and the safety protocols that are in place.
“Nothing comes to Slave Lake,” said Winarski. “The Town of Slave Lake drinking water is unaffected by anything.”
“I was really impressed,” said councillor Esau. “I went there with some skepticism.”
Councillor Rosche had not lost his skepticism.
“Who pays for their third party testing?” he asked.
“They do,” said councillor Pearson.
“The fox guarding the chickens,” said Rosche.
Council passed a motion directing administration to send a letter to Suez thanking the company for the tour and expressing support for enhanced environmental testing.

Financial status
Director of finance Jason Warawa reported “some noticeable jumps” in the amount of cash taken in (also expended) since his last report for council. Revenues stand at 94 per cent of the budget. Operational expenditures are just under 50 per cent of what’s budgeted; on the capital side there’s a long way to go, with only $1.5 million of a $9.6 million budget having been spent. Revenue from drilling activity is higher than anticipated. Asked about outstanding receivables, Warawa said there are some linear accounts (taxes owing on pipelines, for example) that have been unresolved since last year.
“They may end up as bad debt,” he said.

Development issues
Some developers are having a hard time selling the lots in their multi-lot subdivisions. One of them had brought his case to the Municipal Planning Commission, council heard, asking for a break on having to pay taxes on each registered (but as-yet-unsold) lot.
Council was being asked a couple of things: one was to put a limit on the number of extensions the M.D. can grant for completion of subdivisions. The other was whether council was willing to consider some sort of a tax break to developers to ease the burden until lots sell.
Also before council were the results of a survey of several other municipalities on similar issues. Athabasca County, it turns out, does offer an incentive program for new developments, but only of a certain size, and only when taxes have been paid in full. Other municipalities allow lots to be registered in phases, thus spreading out the tax burden for the developer. Yet another municipality warned that tax breaks are “a slippery slope.”
CAO Winarski agreed with that, adding, “Keep in mind, our M.D. charges some of the lowest residential taxes in Alberta.”
Also in council’s package was a letter from a developer, pretty plainly stating that unless things change, “I am definitely done with development here.”
Councillor Fulmore said he’d like to see some sort of incentive program that would help developers see their subdivisions through to completion. Playing the devil’s advocate (or continuing to), Winarski pointed out that “you’d be managing their risk with my money.
“If you’re giving a rebate to somebody because they won’t drop their selling price,” he continued, “you’ll have others asking ‘what about me?’”
Councillor Esau said he didn’t see why the M.D. had to start charging higher taxes right away on new lots.
“We don’t do it with industry,” he said.
Council settled on a motion to have administration do more work on it and bring it back so they can talk about it some more.

Flatbush community hall upgrade
The complex at Flatbush is getting an upgraded set of washrooms, which will bring it up to code. Before council were the results of the tender – three fairly close bids, the lowest one at $424,231.
The amount was more than anyone on council had expected, but about what admin had predicted back when it first came up, but $174,000 more than what was budgeted for it. Councillor Pearson thought it was too much.
“Things have to be phased in,” he said. “Pick something you can accomplish with the money that’s budgeted. I have some reservations about continually drawing from reserves.”
Notwithstanding, councillor Fulmore made a motion to proceed as recommended, which passed by a 5 – 1 vote.
The project includes “a substantial modification to the community complex with regard to walls, electrical, ceilings, floor, water storage, septic tanks, fixtures, etc.,” says the written report for council.
Winning the contract was Vertical Building Solutions.

Metal roof on M.D. shop
The M.D. shop in Flatbush has been leaking. Council was asked to approve a $63,000 contract to get it replaced.
“We have room in our operations budget to get this done,” said Klassen.
Council passed an Esau motion to award the contract to AK Exteriors.

Poplar Lane speed reduction
Residents at the west end of Poplar Lane have been lobbying the M.D. to reduce the speed limit on that part of the road between Poplar Drive and the entrane to The Acres. Administration’s recommendation was to set a new speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour.
“There have been quite a few complaints,” said Klassen.
Council approved the reduction unanimously.

The road nobody wants
Speaking of complaints, the M.D. has been hearing from residents in the vicinity of an un-maintained bit of private roadway off the east end of Poplar Lane. They are concerned about its condition and the safety implications.
Council heard that the lane is not an M.D. road, but is leased from the government by Cardinal Energy, having existed to serve a wellsite since 1967. Cardinal is not interested in upgrading it, and in fact would like to turn it over to the M.D. for a dollar. A complicating factor is that the lease runs through quarter of land with multiple owners, “and there are currently estate issues,” said the written report for council.
Closing it is one option, but the lessor isn’t interested in doing that either, since it would be more expensive than paying the annual lease fee.
Klassen was asked what it would take to bring it up to an acceptable standard. At least $50,000, he said.
“I don’t want to spend that on a road nobody needs,” said councillor Rosche.
“We can ban it to 50 per cent and put on a lift of gravel for a few thousand,” said Klassen.
Councillor Pearson made a motion to have the M.D. “work with Cardinal, 50/50 to bring it up.”
That may or may not work, because the company has already told the M.D. it has no money in its budget for that road, and in fact doesn’t need it.
The road runs north off Poplar Lane, between the Camarneiro property and the Allen Park subdivision.

Sell that truck
Council accepted a recommendation to approve the early sale of a sanding truck with a belly plow that has been costing a lot in repairs. It’s a 2009 Mack with 272,000 kilometres on it. It has already cost $54,000 in repairs and is looking at another $16,000, Klassen reported.
“It’s time to let this one go,” he said.

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