Feb. 12, 2019 meeting
Defining service levels
Council had a brainstorming session on the theme of services levels – not on the details of them, but rather on examples of where knowledge is lacking and some enlightenment needed.
One area where expectations don’t seem to match the service levels very well is snow-clearing.
“We’re getting lots of calls,” said CAO Brian Vance, about snow windrows across driveways as a result of street plowing. Also about snow being piled in front yards.
Both things are happening per policy. A couple of years ago, he reminded council, the town decided to improve efficiency and cut costs by not following the snowplow with smaller equipment to clear up what was left across driveways. As a result, the entire town can get plowed quicker than before. The grader does drop a ‘gate’ when it passes a driveway, catching most of the snow, but a bit does end up there, which property owners must deal with.
Trail maintenance is another topic about which the town gets a lot of calls. There’s been a service level change here too. There had been a dedicated trail person, Vance said, but to cut costs, the job is now part of what other people with other jobs do. So the trails do get plowed, but not quite as soon after a snowfall.
Policing came up as a topic in the discussion. Perhaps not surprisingly, it turned into a lengthy discussion on homelessness/vagrancy and how much trouble it is causing and police time it is chewing up. The number one item of business for town peace officers lately has been dealing with complaints about these people. The RCMP is averaging two calls a day as well. Councillor Rebecca King, reiterating what she’d said at a previous meeting, said many of the perpetrators are not technically homeless, and aren’t using the services available to homeless people. She went further, saying that many of them are coming to Slave Lake from elsewhere because of what they are hearing.
“They’re telling their friends, ‘come to Slave Lake – people will buy you food and give you money.’”
“So you’re saying the community is enabling them?” asked councillor Darin Busk.
“One thousand per cent,” said King, who represents the town on the coalition looking into homelessness and is also on the Friendship Centre board.
“There’s such a separation between homelessness and what we’re seeing,” she said. “They’re choosing to live like this.”
‘Prime time’ for vehicle theft
Vance, just back from a Protective Services Committee meeting, had some interesting statistical information from the RCMP. “Prime time” for car theft, he said, is 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday mornings.
At the same meeting he heard that visits to the Family Care Clinic in Slave Lake were down about 200 in January. He wasn’t sure if that was over December or compared to the previous January. On the other hand there has been “an increase in mental health demands,” he said.
CAO Brian Vance informed council of two new hires at the Northern Lights Aquatic Centre. Ethan McLaren and Marlee Monaghan will be working as part time instructors at the pool.
“It’s good to see young people moving into the lifeguards,” said Vance.
“It is,” agreed mayor Warman.
Vance said he’s been getting questions about the Highway Motor Inn. It’s the former motel on 14th Ave. SW that was damaged in a fire last year, leaving behind quite a mess. He said the owners are supposed to have a demolition plan in place by March 10. The owners have been responding to town communication, he said, “but slowly.”
Streets and snow
Councillor Darin Busk said he’d been hearing from residents about streets getting narrow due to snow storage. Is there a plan to push those piles further back? he asked. There is, he heard, once the crews get finished the current round of residential plowing. Once the snow is pushed further onto people’s properties, expect to get calls about that, he was told.
Councillor Brice Ferguson asked about the status of the plan to erect signs reflecting council’s decision to name the community trail system ‘Allarie Trails.’ There is a plan for this year, he heard, but it won’t be finalized until the capital budget is finished off. Assuming it makes the cut, the intent is to go ahead in the spring.
Relations with the M.D.
The most recent Inter-Municipal Committee meeting covered town and M.D. contributions to the two main cost-sharing agreements.
“Fairly status quo,” is how mayor Warman described it.
On the economic development front, the decision was to continue to focus on the tri-council region, while leaving open the possibility of working with other regional neighbours on a case-by-case basis.
Also discussed was the management of the Visitor Information Centre. It’s looking as if the town and M.D. will be resuming as co-operators of visitor services during the season. Community Futures is under contract to do that until the end of April. Whether they will be around to resume off-season coverage next fall is up in the air. Rumour has it CF is looking to relocate into town.
Regional waste management
Councillor Brice Ferguson said there’s something like 7,000 tonnes of waste concrete at the landfill that needs to be disposed of. There’s a plan to get it processed, but it won’t be cheap. Something called an ‘environmental surcharge’ on top of hauling charges is also stirring up a bit of discussion.
“What is it?” asked councillor Busk.
Warman: “It’s to capture additional costs related to the carbon tax. But I would bet they’re making money on it. It’s a tough one.”
Vance said the contractor had proposed the surcharge to be added to what the town pays, but didn’t get far with it.
“We said no. It’s not in the contract.”