June 13, 2018 meeting
Request to waive tax penalty
Council accepted a recommendation to allow the owners of the Flatbush Store to set up a payment plan for property taxes, rather than having to pay them all at once. The request for relief came informally to the table, and was in fact for a waiver of penalties on late payment. The reason for the request was that the store suffered fire damage in May, is closed and expects to be for a while, so money is tight.
Presenting the report for council, finance director Jason Warawa made the usual cautions about setting precedents. The M.D. gets many such requests for tax relief of one sort or another, he said, but is not in the habit of granting them. What it did do in one notable case was to set up a payment option plan. This gives a bit of relief, doesn’t cost the M.D. anything and doesn’t give the impression that the M.D. is inviting anybody to do it.
“It sounds like a fair compromise,” said reeve Murray Kerik.
Broadening the development authority
“We do have some bottlenecks,” said CAO Allan Winarski, speaking of the process of approving development permits. Three M.D. staff members are currently approved to do this sort of work, but in practice it comes down to mainly one person. The proposal before council was to grant ‘development authority’ status to another staff member.
“We have a person who is willing to step up and take on some junior-level development permits,” Winarski said. “It should help us with backlogs and delivery times.”
Councillor Brad Pearson asked if there are any training requirements. Technically no, said Winarski, but practically – yes.
“She’s been taking U of A extension courses on land-use planning on her own initiative.”
State of local emergency
Council got an update on the conditions that led the M.D. to declare a state of local emergency (SOLE) in the early hours of June 12.
“We’ve seen water in places it’s never been before,” said councillor Pearson.
“Nine Mile Point,” said reeve Murray Kerik, agreeing
This was Southshore Drive he was referring to. Pearson figured beavers plugging the culvert under the railway tracks were the culprits.
Winarski spoke about the “drastic actions” that the SOLE allows the authorities. It was invoked so the M.D. could close roads and evacuate people – as it did from Marten Beach and the Winkler Estates area. Not everyone left; that’s their option, Winarski said, but they take their chances.
The SOLE was enacted at about 1:30 a.m. on June 12. The kicker was the single egress from Winkler estates and the possibility of losing the bridge leading into it.
“It was really flowing in there,” he said.
As for Marten Beach, Winarski called it “the worst since I’ve been here.”
It got worse later on June 12 when a culvert failure on Hwy. 88 cut off Marten Beach from Slave Lake. The M.D. was sending potable water and emergency gasoline the long way around.
Besides the flooding on Southshore Drive as mentioned, the main difficulties in that area had to do with power failures caused by trees blowing over. Councillor Jeff Commins said this happened at several locations, causing power to be out for long periods.
There were wins, though. Winarski commended the ATCO Electric crew for restoring power to the Canyon Creek waste treatment plant, preventing a “poo-nami.”
Bill Klassen, the M.D.’s roads boss, took the opportunity to praise his team, which he said had been putting “a huge effort” through the crisis. He also advised council if the M.D. is going to apply (Again: the previous attempt failed) for flood mitigation funding, first “there’s going to have to be an investment in engineering.”
Water running through Winkler Estates on the morning of June 13.
‘Good working relationship’
The M.D. has been working with SHARA on three developments proposed by that organization, reported rural services director Russell Jassman. These are the sea can storage by the school, an illuminated sign by the community complex and a storage building behind the arena. Jassman listed the steps the M.D. has taken to move these projects along, and characterized the working relationship between SHARA and the M.D. as “good.”
The M.D. is waiting for documents from SHARA on two of the three items.
Council accepted the report as information.
A lift installation for the Flatbush complex is going to be less complicated than thought, Jassman reported. The expectation – based on an earlier impression – was that the walls were too weak to support the lift and unbudgeted expense would likely result.
Not so, as it turns out.
“Nothing further has to be done to the structure,” said Jassman. “It’s good news.”
The view now is the metal staircase is sturdy enough on its own to support the lift assembly, which will bring people unable to climb stairs up to the library (and down again).
“I’m very impressed that we don’t have to re-do the walls,” said councillor Sandra Melzer.
At the Widewater complex, meanwhile, bids were in on an interior (mostly) renovation job. Bill Klassen recommended council approve the low bid, despite it being over the budgeted amount. This was to AK Exteriors, for $464,000. The budgeted amount was $451,000.
The higher amount is due to “slightly” increased scope, Klassen said.
The work includes replacement of the exterior windows, new concrete sidewalks, new drywall, new kitchen cabinets, fresh paint (inside), new flooring and new drapes.
Council gave approval, as recommended.
Culvert on Flat Top Rd.
Having secured 75 per cent funding for a bridge culvert replacement on Flat Top Road, council was asked to approve the expenditure of the M.D.’s share. This would be something over $100,000.
“What goes on out there?” asked councillor Becky Peiffer.
“There’s a lot of resources up there for clay and gravel,” Winarski said. “You have some interest in it.”
The culvert in question is beyond the new cemetery.
Old Smith Highway
Council voted to go ahead with the next phase of re-routing 2.6 kilometres of the Old Smith Highway. Provincial funding for some of it has been approved. Contributions from industrial users of the road are less certain, but will be looked into.
“We’ll try to see what we can come up with,” said Winarski. “You have to prepare for the worst on funding.”
Speed limit by Smith
Per an earlier request by councillor Becky Peiffer, a discussion about speed limit reduction on Hwy. 2A south of Smith was added to the agenda. The question before council: what do we want to ask Alberta Transportation to do, exactly?
The issue is that the 100 kph speed limit creates a dangerous situation, with vehicles speeding up to that rate (or beyond it) as they round a corner going downhill and crossing the railway tracks. What if there’s a train and vehicles stopped waiting for it? A disaster waiting to happen, is how Peiffer had put it.
So what do we want? Asked Klassen. Fifty kph? Eighty? First 70 and then down to 50? Sixty?
Councillor Jeff Commins made a motion to have the limit reduced to 70 and the appropriate signs put up. This was carried.
Councillor Sandra Melzer reported she was “very impressed” by the leadership conference she participated in at the Legacy Centre in Slave Lake recently. A project of the Wildfire Legacy Corporation, the ‘Leadercast’ conference was brought in via video-conference from elsewhere, with participants in remote locations around the continent.
Council approved the cost of sending Melzer, after the fact.
Support for Smith srs. Group
Per a request from the Smith Half Century Plus group, council agreed to provide a letter of support for a grant application by that organization. It seeks $25,000 to do repairs to its building in Smith. The work includes repair of a sinking floor, plus upgrades to tables, chairs and the sound system.
Code of conduct
Council approved a new code of conduct bylaw for elected officials, as required by the new Municipal Government Act. The only change requested by council (Brad Pearson) was that a clause be added stating that in the case of a complaint from the public, the M.D. will provide a response.
The bylaw covers such topics as respect, confidentiality, communication and others.
Council passed a new policy which formalizes what the M.D. already does, which is attempt to engage the public. This is another one that comes out of the new provincial legislation governing how municipalities operate.
The policy, “must identify the…. approaches the municipality will use to engage municipal stakeholders, and the circumstances in which the municipality will engage municipal stakeholders,” says the written report for council.
On the other hand, advised Winarski, “If you did everything by referendum then you wouldn’t need to be here.”