Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Dec. 4, 2018 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

State of projects

Brian Vance, the CAO, presented his usual state-of-affairs report to council on paper and there weren’t any questions from councillors about it. Not that a lot is happening, construction-wise, at this point.

However, three projects continue in the design stages – two sewage lift station upgrades and one having to do with improvements to the water reservoir on the cemetery hill. In all three cases, construction will be in 2019.

On the new waterline on the north end of town, customer connections are gradually being made, with a couple still left to be done on Tamarack Rd. The M.D. portion of the project along the north end of Main St. remains to be done; five customers are waiting there for connections.

As for the regional raw water line into town from the new intake at Wagner, the pressure-testing portion of the line is dragging much longer than anticipated, due to what Vance in his report called “pigging issues.” Once the line has passed the pressure testing, the final connection to the water treatment plant will be made.

Over at the sewage lagoon, Vance reported good progress on the earth work, but it has pretty much shut down now until spring.

Fires, MVAs

Vance’s report included the latest from the regional fire service Hall #1. This was one structure fire, one medical response and five motor vehicle accident calls – three on Hwy. 2, one on Hwy. 88 and one on Hwy. 44.

Enforcement issues

Complaints about sidewalk snow removal continue to come in, Vance reported. What he didn’t say is what sort of response there has been from enforcement efforts.

Otherwise, “vagrancy, of homeless individuals, incidents continue as well,” Vance reported.

Ice plant problems

Power ‘bumps’ in the southwest part of town seem to be causing problems at the MRC. Vance advised council there were four ice plant shutdowns the previous week due to this.

“This will be something we will need to fully review and diagnose in the spring with ATCO,” he said in his written report.

In other MRC news, the motor of an air-handling unit failed and was replaced. Also failing was the motor on a de-humidifier in the back arena. In the fieldhouse, 39 lightbulbs had to be replaced. Vance figures all three incidents are likely related to the power bumps as well.

Can people just build things?

Councillor Joy McGregor said she’s been hearing from one (or more) residents with questions related to the recent construction of a skating oval in Hilda Eben Park. Apparently somebody thinks “excess water” from the rink might cause problems to nearby residences in the spring. Further, the question has arisen as to what can be done by volunteers in town parks. If somebody can build a skating rink, can somebody else build a bicycle jump?

“What’s the process?” asked McGregor.

“We expect people to talk to the town first,” said mayor Tyler Warman.

Food bank stuff

McGregor provided some information about the Slave Lake food bank. She told her colleagues she had been surprised to learn recently that users of the food bank can only apply for food once every six weeks.

“I’m concerned it could be a little bit tough for some people,” she said, adding that she wonders if kids may be going to school hungry. “We should keep an eye on it through the year.”

Water meter stuff

Council approved the purchase of a DMMR (digital download radio, more or less) radio and two tablets. According to the report by Christina Ridley, “these items will act as a backup for our current system. It will allow two operators to program and change out meters at the same time, and it will give the operators the ability to be versatile and mobile.”

The DMMR radio is the device that sends and receives signals for water meter readings. If the existing one fails, Ridley said, the program grinds to a halt. It could take six months for repairs. As for the tablets, they would allow work to be done more quickly and easily.

The total cost of the equipment is $6,857. The money is to come from the water and sewer reserve.

On a related note, councillor Darin Busk said he’d heard a story about the water meter replacement units. What he’d heard was that the person installing the new unit “tried five before he found one that worked.”

Given that the warrantee units are supposed to replace the failure-prone originals, this was a cause of some concern. But Vance said in this case the fault probably wasn’t the hardware.

Municipal and school reserves

It has long been the practice of the town (and municipalities generally) to take up to 10 per cent of new developments for parks and schools. This is in fact mandated by the Municipal Government Act (MGA). In practice, only the large developments actually set land aside that is turned into parks and school properties. Otherwise, there’s a cash-in-lieu option, which happens with all subdivisions.

It has been the practice, as noted, but there hasn’t been a formal policy on the town’s books. The new MGA requires that there be one, council heard, and the proposed policy was in the agenda package for council’s review.

“Does this differ from our current practice?” asked councillor Brice Ferguson.

It doesn’t, was the answer. Is there any rush to approve it then? was Ferguson’s next question.

Yes there is, due to the MGA. Otherwise, development permits can’t be issued.

“Does it have to be 10 per cent?” asked Ferguson.

It can be less than that, said the director, but the Municipal Development Plan would have to specify the lower number, and at the moment it doesn’t. Changing the MDP would be a matter for another day.

Council approved the policy as presented.

Bus depot downtown?

Council gave first reading to a bylaw change that if approved would allow bus and taxi depots to be located in the Central Commercial District. Such a use is not listed as permitted in the C1 zone – hence the need for a bylaw change if it is to go ahead.

Passing first reading does not amount to approval of the concept. It’s standard practice that sets up the required public hearing after two weeks of advertising. The hearing will occur at council’s meeting on Jan. 8, 2019.

The applicant is the owner of the Plaza 2000 on 2nd Ave. NW. In a letter included in council’s agenda package, Cold Shot Passenger & Courier Service states it hopes to rent a spot in the plaza. Cold Shot has been running a bus service through Slave Lake since Greyhound shut down earlier this year. It uses the truckstop, but would prefer a downtown location for the safety of passengers, who arrive from Edmonton at 2:20 a.m.

It wouldn’t be a first. The bus depot in Slave Lake was once at the BA station – roughly where Revolution Ford is now located.

Asset management

Council was asked to consider taking part in an asset management ‘capacity building’ project. Asset management is growing in importance, said the report before council, but it’s beyond the capacity of small municipalities to develop a program on their own. Stepping into the breach are three associations of municipalities – one federal and two provincial. Six to 10 smaller towns and M.D.s will be chosen in Alberta to participate in the program, with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities picking up most of the costs. Participating bodies would be expected to host one meeting, and cover their own travel costs.

So… the question for council was should the town apply. Yes, said council; let’s give it a shot.

“Sounds like a good opportunity,” said mayor Warman. “Let’s try it.”

The recommendation included the proviso that “administration will only participate if travel is within a reasonable distance.”

Mayor’s corner

Warman said he was driving to Edmonton after the meeting to hook up with his Tri-Council colleagues. They would be making a joint presentation the next day to a conference of the Alberta Emergency Management Association conference.

Back in Slave Lake that same night, Warman said he and his council colleagues would “hammer on the budget,” some more, with another session scheduled for the Thursday evening. He said he was hoping that would be enough to finish it off.

Warman then referred to a letter from the Alberta Forest Products Association, requesting town support in lobbying for federal funding in the mountain pine beetle battle.

The letter, from AFPA President Paul Whittaker had – among much else – this to say: “I am writing to request that you write your MP and the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, to support federal funding to contain the beetle.”

The AFPA lobby effort supports a provincial request for $95 million from the federal government, to add to the provincial commitment of $100 million.

“Without immediate intervention,” says Whittaker in the letter, “there is a very real risk that the beetle could decimate pine forests from coast to coast, increasing the risk of wildfires, damaging watersheds and leading to lost jobs in the forest sector.”

Council passed a motion to have administration prepare and send a letter to the minister.

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