May 2, 2017 meeting
Hard work on water clarity
One item in CAO Brian Vance’s update on town activities for council had to do with “difficulties obtaining the proper water clarity,” at the water treatment plant. This was due to turbidity caused by spring runoff. Vance said crews worked “around the clock,” to fix the problem. The new raw water intake (supposed to be built this year at Wagner), “will certainly be welcome at this time of year,” he said.
Speaking of that regional water line project, councillor Mark Missal asked if construction can be done in the winter. Some of it can, Vance said.
Missal: “I was worried about waiting another construction year.”
Vance: “So am I.”
Climbing wall improvement
Vance reported that the climbing wall in the Northern Lakes College gym is getting an ‘automatic belay system,’ courtesy of CNRL. This should make the wall more accessible, since trained belayers will not be needed for every climber. Vance said he saw such a system in the city recently and it works quite well.
Vance said the town will be advertising the need for permits associated with businesses occupying a new space, or changing the use within a space. This goes on, with companies moving into a new shop and the like.
“Businesses that change locations are often surprised when they find they need a license renewal,” Vance said. “And they’re particularly surprised when they find they’re not compliant.”
Taxi program has a sponsor
Vance shared the good news that Royal LePage has stepped up to sponsor the FCSS ‘taxi program,’ after it was learned the program had been dropped due to lack of funding. This program had the town’s FCSS office providing taxi vouchers to other agencies, which then provided them to people they judged to be in need.
Parent Link needs more space
Council heard that the Parent Link centre – which the town sponsors via FCSS funds – has outgrown its space and is looking for a new one.
“Does it need that much space?” asked a skeptical mayor Tyler Warman. “I thought that space (upstairs at the Community Christian Centre) was pretty big.”
“It’s not that big,” said community services director Ruth Rolfe.
Parent Link provides services to pre-school children and their parents.
One item in Vance’s report drew a fair amount of curiosity from council. The news was that the town has applied for a Canada 150 grant for a ‘floating parade’ to celebrate ‘The Great Trail’ (otherwise known as the Trans Canada Trail). Asked about it by councillor Phil Lokken, Rolfe said the plan (if the grant application is successful) is to hold the event on the Lesser Slave River, which the M.D. recently designated as a ‘blueway’ section of the Trans Canada Trail. Participants can canoe, kayak or ride on tubes, and dress up and compete for prizes. The tentative plan calls for an 11-kilometre float, with a barbecue at the end, with transportation to the launch point and back to town. The M.D. and the Woods & Water Recreational Trails Association are co-applicants for the grant.
MRC power supply fixed
Repairs to the power feed to the multi-rec centre went well, council heard. The bill is $28,000 (unbudgeted, of course), which council decided to cover out of an unrestricted reserve.
The repair was necessitated by a failure of one of the lines running underground into the facility from a transformer box in the parking lot. This happened just as a major hockey tournament was about to commence back in March. The town managed to keep things running by cutting power to some parts of the facility in order to keep others running at full capacity.
In his report on the matter, town project manager Doug Baird said the contract went to the lowest of three bidders, which was D’Lanne Electro Controls of Slave Lake.
Asked if there’s any chance of the same problem happening again, Baird said the new and improved conduits are “good for 50 years.”
Wrapping up the ER thing
Council wrapped up a matter it thought it had taken care of last November. But Alberta Land Titles didn’t like something in the wording, so it was back to the drawing board on the ‘disposal’ of a chunk of Environmental Reserve at the rear end of an SLD (Spruce Land Developments) lot adjacent to Sawridge Creek. A second public hearing produced no opposition, so council gave second and third readings to the bylaw change. Assuming the authorities don’t object to it again, it means SLD is free to develop the property in question.
Improving the atmosphere in the MRC
Air conditioning for the field house and de-humidifiers for the two ice rinks are on the agenda for Slave Lake’s multi-rec centre. The town got a federal grant to cover some of this, and had a decision to make; go with all three; go with a lower-capacity de-humidifier in Arena 2 (and save some money) or go without the de-humidifier altogether in Arena 2.
Council heard that because it gets ice in August, Arena 1 badly needs de-humidification. It’s less of a concern in Arena 2, but humidity can occasionally cause problems there too.
As usual, money was an issue. The full package would put the project $106,000 over budget, said Baird. With a reduced-capacity de-humidifier in Arena 2 (Option ‘D’), that amount would be cut to $30,500.
“I want to do it right the first time,” said councillor Darin Busk.
“A big ditto,” said councillor Julie Brandle.
“Is the M.D. contributing?” asked councillor Joy McGregor.
“Zero dollars,” said mayor Tyiler Warman.
“I don’t like to see us go over budget,” said councillor Brice Ferguson.
“I agree with councillor Ferguson,” said Warman.
Council passed the motion to go with Option ‘D’, by a 6 – 1 vote, with Brandle opposed.
Equipment supplier CIMCO gets the contract, and will hire local contractors to do the work, Baird said.
Council faced its second difficult decision of the night, in the form of a request for a waiver of the rental fee for the annual Christmas Craft Sale. The event is done in aid of a couple of local charities, council was reminded, and the town has helped out by waiving the fee (around $1,100) in the past.
“We don’t have any money,” said councillor Missal, bluntly.
“It’s not as if we have to hand over the money,” pointed out mayor Tyler Warman.
“We have a lot of direct expenses on it,” said town manager Brian Vance. “And it’s (the cost of running the MRC) subsidized already.”
“It attracts people to the community,” Warman responded. “It’s a special circumstance.”
Councillor Darin Busk was in the other camp.
“Where do we draw the line?” he asked. “How do you say ‘no’ to the next group that comes in? We said ‘no’ to the provincials,” he reminded his colleagues.
“Where do we draw the line?” said Warman. “Wherever we think we should.”
Council did draw a sort of a line, said councillor Brandle. That was at budget time, when council decided that in order to head off a tax increase, the $10,000 community assistance fund that had been in the budget (for exactly this sort of request) should be cut.
“We knew this was going to come,” said Brandle. “I was prepared for it.”
Council defeated the motion to grant the waiver by a 4 – 3 vote, with Warman, Ferguson and Busk (somewhat surprisingly, given his comments) voting in favour and Phil Lokken, Mark Missal, Brandle and McGregor opposed.
Going through the motions (for the election)
As required by the Municipal Government Act, council made the appropriate motions to appoint Lisa Russell as returning officer for the municipal election on Oct. 16, 2017, set the nomination date as Sept. 18 and to hold an advance vote “as determined by the returning officer.”
As usual the High Prairie School Division will be piggybacking on the municipal election for the election of its board trustees. Council heard that the HPSD board will also appoint Russell as its returning officer.
Warman shared the good news that a doctor who had toured the community in recent weeks has decided Slave Lake is where she wants to work. There’s a process of qualification involved, which can take several months.
Another doctor has just completed his two-stage qualification, serving in other Alberta communities and has just moved to Slave Lake to get started in practice here. His name is Dr. Frank Akwa, who has expertise in obstetrical surgery, Warman said.
In other news, an interim manager has been hired for the Legacy Centre. The longer-term solution has the owners splitting the manager’s role into two positions.
On the tourism side, things have been progressing at the visitor information centre, Warman said, and a grand re-opening event is being planned, probably for later this month.