Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

May 9, 2017 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Breakthrough on regional waterline
CAO Brian Vance shared news of a breakthrough on the raw water line project.
“Big change there!” he said. “Alberta Environment approval was received. The bid packages will be sent out Thursday.”
The delay in approval for the project – which includes an intake at Wagner and a line to the treatment plant in Slave Lake – was making municipal officials a bit nervous.

Act of faith
Vance reported that sanding equipment was being (or had been) removed from the town’s trucks. Meaning it would be extremely inconvenient if it were to snow. Perhaps it won’t. Meanwhile, town crews are focusing on sweeping and pothole patching, which Vance described as “going pretty good.”

Sand and oil in the sewer
Troubling news from the northeast part of town: sand and oil clogging up sewer pipes. How did it get in there?
“The plan is to inspect the sumps in some of the businesses,” said Vance. “Obviously somebody’s putting something down the sewer they shouldn’t be.”

Dust control
As usual, the town’s dust control program doesn’t start early enough for some. The custom has been to hold off on it until after the streets are graveled, and that isn’t done until the frost is completely out. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of dust. Vance told council the plan is to consider an additional, earlier application of calcium chloride in next year’s budget.

Ashtrays targeted
Vance reported that the town had replaced all the ashtrays attached to Main St. garbage bins, but they didn’t last long.
“Vandalism is making it impossible,” he said.

Big year for tax prep
The town’s tax return prep service was well-subscribed this year. Volunteers in the program completed over 300 returns, the most ever.

Bike racks on the way
Councillor Joy McGregor asked Vance when bicycle racks will be installed on Main St. Vance said they should be installed shortly.

Groovy analytics
How useful it is to know how many people visited a certain town website page, and where they were when they did it? Who knows, but, it certainly is interesting. Christopher Brown, the town’s communications person, told councillors that “In the last two hours (for example) we had somebody from Tunisia visit our website.”
That’s the kind of detail available via the town’s new website and mobile app service, which was launched last fall.
Another interesting tidbit: in that period (September 1 – May 1), 1,400 visits to the TOSL website were made from Seattle, Washington.
What were they looking for? a councillor asked.
“They’re looking at our RFP/tender page,” Brown said.
In that same period – 7,334 visits from Edmonton, 4,285 from Calgary and 832 from Toronto.
There have been 384 downloads of the town’s mobile app, Brown reported.
Mayor Tyler Warman said he found that number disappointingly low. He asked Brown if he could tell how many people were reading his online blog. It takes a fair amount of time to write, he said, and he’d like to know if it’s worth the effort.
Almost 3,000 people have ‘visited,’ the blog page since launch last fall, Brown said.
“Some read it in the paper as well,” observed councillor Darin Busk.
More interesting (as opposed to useful) data: Of the thousands of visits to slavelake.ca since last September, 52 per cent came from smart phones and 36 per cent from desktop devices. The average length of stay for a town website visitor? One minute and 45 seconds.
Councillor Mark Missal, asking the obvious question: “Now what? What do we do with this?”
Brown: “Focus our energy on the top 15 – 20 pages and figure out how to keep them (the visitors) on our website longer.”

Committee reports
Airport Authority – councillor Missal said a review of the leases on airport lands revealed that a helicopter company was being overcharged. It’s being refunded, he said. A price has been quoted of $218,000 to put up a six-foot fence around the airport property. Whether or not it goes ahead, it has to wait for a review of the property.
“You can’t put a fence in if you don’t know where it’s supposed to be,” Missal said.
Protective Services – Councillor Busk said the EMX-17 training exercise on April 28 had “lots of people from outside the community. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen.”
There were mistakes, added Missal, “but they’re part of the learning process. It was pretty impressive.”
Tri-council Health – Missal reported that the committee had heard from Keepers of the Athabasca on the topic of the Swan Hills waste treatment plant’s license renewal application. The operator wants to reduce its monitoring stations from three to one. Keepers wants at least three and would like even more.
Missal also reported on a “very educational” chat the group had with Family Care Clinic officials, who stressed that “lines of communication are always open.”
Taking up the story, mayor Warman said he and councillor McGregor would be involved in a teleconference with Grande Prairie medical students, for the purpose of promoting the community as a place to work and live.
Finally, “another physician is touring this weekend,” Warman said, adding, “another visited last week, out of the blue.”
Economic Development – Warman said summer students have been hired for the Visitor Information Centre, which holds an opening barbecue on May 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Northern Alberta Elected Leaders (NAEL) – Warman listed a few issues that the NAEL is going to be hearing about. They include the need for predictability in government grants and the need for more flexibility in grants generally. He gave the example of the town’s looming sewage lagoon refurbishment – a $12 million job that has received $6 million in federal and provincial grants. The town doesn’t exactly have the other six million lying around, and having already qualified for $6 million, finds itself “severely limited (in) our ability to apply for other grants.”
Airport funding is another big issue for the NAEL.

Funding request not going anywhere
In council’s package was a request from Careers: The Next Generation for a $5,000 contribution to a workshop called Aboriginal Careers Explorers Academy. It was the second such request; council had denied the first one. Introducing the topic, Warman noted that the pot of money for community donations doesn’t even exist in this year’s budget.
“I’m personally not in favour,” he said.
A motion to grant the request was defeated.

Trade show
Mayor Warman said he enjoyed his time at the town booth at the recent trade show, but it was not very busy.

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