Regional Tri-council Notebook

Sept. 17, 2018 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

News from the medical response front

Tri-council members heard from a couple of AHS ambulance reps on something they call the ‘Medical First Response’ (MFR) program. This offers first aid and other training to members of fire departments who may find themselves in need of it.
Some – but not all – of the costs of this training is covered.
The presentation came about after the regional fire chief had expressed concern to council about how many medical calls the fire department had been responding to. The impression was that the firefighters were doing the work of the EMS crews because the EMS was often not available. Assisting the firefighters in training for those situations is one thing, but ambulance availability is still a concern, and Slave Lake councillor Darin Busk asked about it.
Cory Brunham of the local EMS said “it has gotten better.” One reason is an airport-based ambulance and its crew have been added. Otherwise, he said keeping the unit fully staffed is “a constant challenge.” Having the new paramedic program at Northern Lakes College helps, he added.
Council approved a motion to “get going” on the MFR program.
Brunham was asked about the suitability of the ambulance garage at the hospital.
“It’s less than ideal,” he said. “The work environment is not good.”
It has been proposed, locally, that the old fire hall could be a good home for the EMS service. However, government funding has not been secured.
“What can we do?” asked M.D. councillor Brian Rosche.
“We continue to advocate,” said Slave Lake mayor (and meeting chair) Tyler Warman.

Regional water

Doug Baird, the Town of Slave Lake’s project manager, provided a slide-show update of the multi-million-dollar project. It is mostly finished, he said, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony would be happening on Thursday, Sept. 20 at the pump house in Wagner.
Some aspects of the project turned out to be tougher and took longer than anticipated. As a result of some of that, the pipeline contractor is looking for $1.3 million more than the contracted amount.
“We’re disputing a lot of that,” Baird said. He predicted the matter would be settled “in the next couple of weeks.”
Later in the meeting council was presented with a proposal on how the three council partners would manage the new water supply system. It consisted of four basic points. First off, the town is to be responsible for costs above the grants provided through the tri-council.
Second, the town looks after the intake, pump house and pipeline. The M.D. will maintain the hydrants along the line.
“What’s involved with the hydrants?” asked M.D. councillor Sandra Melzer.
“Not a lot,” said town CAO Brian Vance. “You’ve got to winterize, and if somebody hits one you have to fix it.”
Third on the agreement proposal list is that none of the parties will receive reimbursement for land used in the project.
Finally, the town will add a surcharge to water based on usage. This will be to cover cost “related to maintenance, operation and cost of capital.” M.D. and Sawridge residents will see the same surcharge on their water bills.
Those points seemed acceptable to all; however the actual agreement must still be drafted and approved. Council passed a motion to have that done within the next few weeks.

Legacy deficit

Things are looking up at the Legacy Centre. A list of bookings was provided, showing 29 of them over the next three months – mostly on weekends.
As a result of that, council heard, the deficit for the facility this year will be more like $200,000 than the anticipated $250,000. Tyler Warman, who chairs the Wildfire Legacy Corporation, was pushing for a discussion hopefully leading to a decision about how the three tri-council parties were going to tackle that deficit.
“I think we should put money in sooner, rather than later,” he said. “I don’t want to make assumptions for the other parties, but I want to have a plan. Do we deal with it here?”
Yes, let’s, said M.D. reeve Murray Kerik. “It’s not whether we want to or not. We know we have to.”
Roland Twinn, the Sawridge chief, agreed. “It should be dealt with,” he said. “We’ll do what we can.”
Councillor Busk asked about contributions from the other members of the Legacy board, i.e. the Elks and the daycare. Warman said the agreement with Elks has them contributing something already from their bar proceeds. As for the daycare, a portion of its rent is calculated to be for the building. He said he doesn’t think there’s much more to be expected from that side of things.
Council didn’t settle on any numbers. It did approve a Warman motion to have an agreement on deficit funding in place by March 31 of next year.

Economic development

As reported already, the tri-council’s economic development project runs out of cash at the end of this year. It has been running for seven years on disaster recovery funds – originally intended to last three years. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and make some decisions, said mayor Tyler Warman, continuing the theme from the previous item.
“What is our plan?” he asked. “In about 10 weeks we won’t have any money.”
Most of the work in the ec/dev area has been to develop a tourism-marketing program. Warman listed the accomplishments, which include taking over and staffing the Visitor Information Centre this year and producing materials (printed and digital) to promote the region.
Judging by their comments, councillors are generally in favour of the tourism-promotion side of economic development. Other ec/dev stuff not so much.
Warman said to keep the tourism promotion thing going at current levels would take $125,000 to $140,000 per year.
“We just have to figure out a split,” he said. “Are we prepared to pay? The town sees benefit in this.”
M.D. Reeve Murray Kerik said he’d like to take it back and discuss it with his council first.
Okay, said Warman, but “by the end of the month we have to have a direction.”
Meanwhile, efforts to increase the membership of the fledgling regional tourism society continue. It held a meeting on Sept. 20 for members and people who want to be members. Likely also discussed were regional promotion initiatives, and where the money will come from to pay for them.
Councillor Robert Esau said at the meeting it’s a shame the Destination Marketing Fund hasn’t come to fruition. It’s a scheme whereby hotels put a small charge on top of room fees. The resulting fund can be used (at their discretion) for promoting events and attractions. It can also be used to supoprt a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO).

Health committee: one less doctor

Slave Lake councillor Joy McGregor, reporting on the most recent meeting of the tri-council health committee, said the clinic is losing a female physician. The doctor in question has “work-life balance issues,” she said. Another doctor has been delayed in arriving due to immigration issues. He (or she) is expected sometime next year.
Not helping efficiency at the Family Care Clinic in August was a 6.3 per cent ‘no-show’ rate. There were 3,800 clinic visits that month, McGregor said. One patient has been to the clinic 56 times so far in 2018. The number of clinic visits per patient is more than twice the provincial average.
McGregor closed her presentation by saying the hospital has a goal of “getting the OR (operating room) back up and running.”

FireSmart

The group is losing its full-time coordinator, Warman reported, with Brandy Walters leaving. Councillor Busk said a machine to fill sandbags might be a good addition to the FireSmart arsenal.

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