All sorts of services
Council got the latest version of what Community Futures is and does, right from the horse’s mouth – that being its executive director, Christopher Robblee. Mostly he focused on services CF provides that municipalities might be interested in, such as censuses and something called a ‘community survey,’ which he described as a “citizen satisfaction survey.”
Also sitting in was Robin Lee Vance, the CF’s community engagement coordinator. She spoke about a census CF did for the M.D. of Opportunity last year, customized to the needs of the M.D.
Robblee also spoke about the Business Support Network meetings, which take place once per month in Slave Lake, and which CF is attempting to establish in High Prairie and Wabasca. Youth entrepreneurship camps are also being organized.
As far as loans go, Robblee said $3.5 million is invested in 54 businesses. These are in loans to people who have been turned down by the banks.
“Is there a lot of failure?” asked councillor Darin Busk.
“One in the past two years,” said Robblee.
CAO Brian Vance reported that the town’s external email system had gone down that day. He called it a “harsh reminder that it is at the end of its life.”
Good news for HE Park
Vance informed council the town has been approved for a $30,000 Municipal Demonstration Grant, through Alberta Recycling. The money is for a rubberized play surface at Hilda Eben Park in the southeast part of town.
The new sewage lift station near the airport is proceeding, but slowly, Vance reported. The delays are causing other costs to the town, which are being tracked. These include the cost of hiring vac trucks to move wastewater that the existing lift station isn’t able to handle.
More of everything in 2016
The town’s senior peace officer, Mark Becker, presented his annual report to council, which included statistics on tickets issued in 2016. These numbered 466, a considerable increase from 2015. On top of that, the animal control officer responded to 113 calls.
The three biggest categories of animal calls were dogs at large (36), animal neglect (15) and dog attacks (13). Becker said some of the investigations were “lengthy and complex.” A change in how they are handled by the courts has been ordered by the Provincial Court.
The 466 non-animal tickets resulted from 860 ‘files.’ They ranged from unsightly properties to responding to collisions and checkstops in collaboration with other agencies.
The number of matters that went to trial was up in 2016, Becker said – 22 in number.
Another thing Becker’s figures showed was that people driving without registration or insurance was higher in 2016. Distracted driving is rampant, Becker also observed, but not much could be done about it. When people see a marked police vehicle, he told council, they put down their phones.
Becker said town peace officers issued $137,000-worth in tickets in 2016, of which $37,000 has been collected.
Doling out FCSS funds
Council rubber-stamped a proposal to provide Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) grants to five organizations. This was done without questions or comments by council, suggesting admin. had done a good job in reducing the outlay from $76,000 to $13,320, and the number of recipients from seven to five.
Cut out altogether was a request for support for the P.A.R.T.Y. program and another from the John Humphry Centre for Peace and Human Rights. The former, council was advised, did not qualify under FCSS rules; the latter was ruled out as not being local.
The successful applicants were High Prairie School Division ($4,000 for EPIC community events), Slave Lake Adult Education Committee ($2,300 for ‘Helping Your Children Succeed’), Community Futures ($3,340 for youth entrepreneurship), Northern Alberta Psychological Services ($1,180 for grief workshops) and Northwest Central FASD Network ($2,500 for FASD workshops).
Rec program review
What’s new in recreational programming? Jill Shepherd, the town’s rec programmer provided an update on the year just past and what might be new in the present one. The list is quite long (too long for this space), but here are a few highlights.
The re-opening of the climbing wall at Northern Lakes College in 2016 was a big one. Another thing new in 2016 was a playground program, as was a ‘leaders in training’ program. Both will run again in 2017, Shepherd said.
The ‘Go Girl’ program won the Choosewell Award in 2016 for ‘Most Significant Community Change.’
A focus on sponsorship in 2016 paid dividends, Shepherd reported. This included sponsorship for the walking track and various events, plus more ads on arena boards.
Looking ahead, Shepherd said the town will be helping the Chamber of Commerce in reviving the sand sculpture competition this summer. Also in the works are various Canada 150 projects; these include the ‘Picture Frame Project,’ and the ‘Mural Mosaic Project.’
Shepherd told council she’s looking at using the multi-rec centre space for more programs in 2017. Ideas include a gymnastics club, and increasing the flexibility of the field house by the installation of dividing curtains.
‘Major crash probable’
Council approved a $25,000 unbudgeted expenditure on computer system upgrades and additional support. This followed a scary crash of the town’s email server, which highlighted the need for upgrades before something worse happened.
“There have been too many failures and we have received opinions from two different sources that a major system crash is highly probably,” said finance director David Joy in his written report for council. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
The need for major upgrades was not exactly news. The town had a firm assess its IT systems last fall and the verdict was $120,000 in upgrades to its servers was needed. Council decided to spread the pain out over two years, budgeting $60,000 for this year. After last week’s scare, the recommendation was to add $15,000 to that for the new servers, plus the $10,000 for extra IT support.
News from the watershed
Councillor Mark Missal, reporting on the recent business of the Lesser Slave Watershed Council, said the council is “dealing with ice shacks on the lake,” meaning an educational effort to reduce litter and other types of pollution.
Erosion control measures are also being discussed, Missal said, as are potable water dispensers.
Missal reminded his colleagues about the aquatic invasive species workshop on April 12. It’s free, but please register for it, he said.
Checking in from the tropics?
Councillor Missal hopes to be able to participate in a council meeting from wherever he is on holidays in the next while. This is some sort of electronic method the town is experimenting with. Missal did not say when or where, exactly he would be, but he did suggest he might have a rum punch in his hand.