April 17, 2018 meeting
Town manager Brian Vance reported that things seem to be going well at the new pump house at Wagner, with mechanical and process equipment being installed. He’d also visited the pipeline installation and found it “a muddy mess out there.” However, “they’re pipeliners and they just seem to take that in stride.”
Public works staff have been working on drainage problems, and that includes sewers.
“It’s a horrible job cleaning out the sewer sludge,” Vance said, “but they’ve been doing that.”
Fifteen town staff members recently attended an ‘ammonia awareness’ workshop, which Vance described as “very good.”
Councillor Darin Busk apologized for bringing up potholes, but said he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t.
“Hopefully we have enough material to fill them,” he said.
“We got a huge supply last fall,” said Vance. “After drainage that’ll be the priority.”
Speaking of drainage, councillor Brice Ferguson made a point of praising the town’s response to a notification of a problem on the ‘app’ for conveying such information.
First reading on animal feed
Council also gave first reading to a bylaw amendment that would change a definition to allow the sale of animal feed in certain industrial and commercial land-use zones. This was in response to the fact a business on the west side of town is already doing that.
At the public hearing, proponent Jesse Peters of Sierra Industrial Ltd. explained that his interpretation of the bylaw had been that animal feed would be allowed under the existing definition. The town interpreted it differently, so he applied for the bylaw change.
Planning and development director Laurie Skrynyk reported that the Municipal Planning Commission, in discussing the application, had expressed a concern about bulk fertilizer or chemicals being on site. As long as that doesn’t happen, they were okay with the use.
Asked about that at the public hearing, Peters said there would be no such bulk material stored on site. The only ‘bulk’ possibility would be a hopper for bagging animal feed.
“We’re selling small bags of chicken feed, pet feed, supplements, antibiotics et cetera,” he said.
Peters went on to explain that he’d started stocking animal feed for himself “and people found out about it and started asking for it.”
“I think it’s a good thing for the community,” said mayor Warman.
Another public hearing on the bylaw change will be held on May 15.
Tax bylaw cleared for takeoff
Council went through the motions (all four of them) to pass this year’s tax rate bylaw. This clears the way for the property tax notices to be sent out. The tax rate bylaw sets the mill rates for the various categories of taxable property. When multiplied by the assessed value of a property, the mill rate results in a property’s tax bill.
As already reported, this year’s town budget calls for an overall 1.34 per cent tax increase.
Included in council’s report were a few number showing changes in property numbers from 2017 to 2018. For example, there were six more residential properties on the tax roll in the latter year. In the commercial and industrial properties, there was one fewer.
Back to the drawing board
A fairly routine update to the Land Use Bylaw will take a bit longer to pass, after the Municipal Planning Commission requested some changes. One change had to do with setbacks from bodies of water. The MPC requested that there be a definition of ‘watercourse’ that excludes man-made ditches.
Several of the updated regulations arise directly from changes being proposed by Big Fish Bay Resort.
The MPC also had reservations about the rules regarding bunkhouses on industrial properties. They felt rules requiring any bunkhouse to be owned by the owner of the property on which it sits to be too restrictive. However, they were swayed by the argument of administration that units not owned by the property owner can be off limits to Alberta Health Services and the safety codes officer.
“The MPC feels it is very important that administration and other agencies be able to gain access and inspect bunkhouses and as such they feel the bylaw should proceed as drafted.”
A public hearing on the bylaw changes will be held on May 15.
Tax recovery sale
Council made the necessary motions to clear the way for selling two properties that have a history of unpaid taxes and town utility bills. Having done that, the date set for the auction of the two properties is April 25.
Roland Schmidt, the town’s director of finance, informed council that there had been four properties slated for tax recovery sale, but two had been removed. The owners came in and paid what was in arrears, he said. This is what usually happens, but all attempts to reach the owners of the remaining two units have failed.
“We’ve been trying to correspond,” he said. “This is the last option. We don’t want to do this.”
However, this is what the Municipal Government Act allows municipalities to do, and pretty much every year it comes down to it in the case of a handful of properties with delinquent owners.
Both are mobile homes in the Westside Village neighbourhood.
Council approved reserve amounts on both units – $88,600 for one and $83,800 for the other.
Commenting on that, councillor Julie Brandle said from her experience in real estate, what a property is assessed at and what it actually sells for can be two quite different things.
Mayor Warman, in his wrap-up remarks, said council and staff had reviewed a couple more draft episodes of the TV series based on the regional fire service. This was the second such session, which producers set up to give the concerned parties a chance to suggest final tweaks.
“I think the episodes are going to be interesting to watch,” Warman said.
The first one is due to air on May 22 on Discovery.
On the tourism front, Warman said the final draft on the new regional brochure is in and it is “looking good.” He praised golf course manager Tom Tippin for his work on the project.
Finally, Warman remarked on the outpouring of support and condolences locally for the Lukan family, whose family member Conner was killed in the April 6 hockey team bush crash near Tisdale Saskatchewan.
“The local support continues to inspire me,” said Warman, noting for example the yellow and green ribbons produced by the office of his council colleague Julie Brandle. “It’s just great to see.”
National Public Works Week
As requested by the Public Works Association Council passed a motion declaring May 20 to 26 Public Works Week in Slave Lake.