Town of Slave Lake Council notebook Mar. 21, 2017

 


Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Property re-zoning goes through
Council went ahead with three bylaw changes necessary to re-zone a piece of property at Main St. and Caribou Trail. This followed the required public hearings on each one.
The property is the one owned and operated by Jag Instrument Services at 637 Main St. NE. As explained to council by planning and development assistant Samantha Dyck, the matter arose last November, when “routine site inspections” showed that Jag had relocated from an industrial to a commercial zone. The company was informed that in order to be compliant, the lot would have to be re-zoned, or else they’d have to move. The application was made for re-zoning.
At the public hearings, nobody spoke against the re-zoning. Speaking for it were Brent Boisvert and Nadine Dingman.
Dyck also told council the department has no concerns about the zoning change and in fact supports it.
Council made the required second and third readings in all three cases, with little comment. Councillor Mark Missal said as a rule he doesn’t like ‘spot’ zoning, but “it makes sense in this case.”

P.A.R.T.Y. on
Preventing Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth, is what the P.A.R.T.Y in ‘PARTY Program’ stand for, Tim Horsman of Alberta Health Services explained to council. Horsman is an organizer of the annual program for area Grade 9s, and is looking for funding support. His idea is that it would be an appropriate allocation for some of the funds collected via automated traffic enforcement program.
Horsman spoke of other towns he’s familiar with, such as Hinton, where traffic fine funds are spent on safety initiatives.
“I thought it was a perfect fit,” he said.
PARTY is a day-long program, which treats Grade 9 students from local and area schools to all sorts of information and hands-on experiences. A survivor of injury is often also on the program.
“We have 80 to 100 kids a year,” Horsman said.
The cost of the program is not large. Horsman suggested $1,000 to $2,000 per year. Slave Lake is one of 12 licensed sites for the program in Alberta.
“How did you fund it in the past?” asked councillor Brice Ferguson.
By donations, mostly, Horsman said. There was also a grant at some point that helped.
Council said they would talk it over and get back to Horsman.

Steaming and more steaming
Town crews have been spending a lot of time steaming out culverts lately, acting CAO David Joy told council. And not just on town property. He said town staff helped out at a flooding situation in West Side Village on Sunday, March 20, when residents couldn’t get satisfaction from the property managers.
In reporting on it, Joy made sure to emphasize that drainage within the trailer park is “strictly the park’s responsibility,” and people shouldn’t take the town’s help as an indication of an increase in service levels.
“However, in the spirit of community, some help was provided.”
Deputy mayor Phil Lokken said somebody actually contacted him when he was in Saskatchewan, asking for help with the West Side flooding problem. He in turn got hold of public works director Calvin Couturier, who made arrangements to help.
“It went a long way to alleviating the concerns of residents,” he said. “Thanks a lot.”

No recommendations on PCBs, chlorine
Joy’s report included the good news that the town passed an inspection by the federal environmental enforcement agency. The inspection focused on PCBs in transformers and chlorine levels in water plant ‘backwash.’ Joy said there were no recommendations for improvement.

Working out the IT bugs
If emails to town staff aren’t being answered, it might be because they aren’t getting through. This is one of the problems the town system has been experiencing lately, due to servers that are “old and at capacity,” Joy said in his report. This has already been acknowledged and funds for an upgrade have been approved.
“Our IT consulting firm has expedited and ordered the required server host replacements,” Joy reported, “which should arrive for installation and configuration within six weeks.”

Short of people
Joy told council it was easy to replace him (he’s leaving at the end of March), but finding somebody to replace the person who is replacing him is proving to be more difficult. Taking over as director of finance is Roland Schmidt, an internal promotion. The town has been advertising for someone to take over Schmidt’s position as supervisor of accounting. This is not the only challenge facing the department; Joy said two other spots in the accounting group are vacant. In total the finance/IT group is down three of eight positions “as of today,” Joy’s report continued. Another two are expected to be vacated in three to six months.
“This will put a strain on our remaining employees to complete day-to-day processes…” Joy said.
These include utility billing, tax notices and more.
“Can we hire temporary employees?” asked councillor Darin Busk.
“We’re advertising for a floater,” advised HR coordinator Kirsten Coutts.
“We will proceed as quickly as possible,” on recruiting efforts, Joy promised.

The Northern Lights Aquatic Centre, otherwise known as ‘the pool,’ has been having its share of problems of the wear-and-tear variety. Three have been fixed; one remains to be dealt with, council heard.
One was something called the ‘agitator motor.’ This resulted in perlite having to be added manually for a few days, said Joy’s report for council. It has now been fixed.
The replacement of a motor was required to get the jets in the hot tub working properly.
There were also issues with the pump bearings; this was solved by replacing the pump with a rebuilt unit.
Left to be fixed are “a couple of areas on the deck.”

Thanks and all the best
Councillor Mark Missal took the opportunity to thank David Joy for his good service to the town. Joy is moving on to a position with the City of Fort St. John, British Columbia at the beginning of next month.
“It’s been a pleasure taking your advice,” said Missal.
Joy responded by speaking of the positive work environment at the Town of Slave Lake. He said he’s worked with government-appointed boards and now after working with a locally-elected council for the past few years, he finds he prefers the latter.
“I appreciate it very much,” he said.

Reception area to stay closed
The town’s trial period with lunch-hour (noon to 1:00 p.m.) closure of its reception desk is over, and Roland Schmidt had a report on how it went. Quite well, is the short answer. There had been some concern about inconvenience for residents wanting to come by in that hour of the day to pay bills, but the drop box set up for that purpose is not being used, Schmidt said. Nor has he heard any complaints about it.
The change in front-counter attendance hours was proposed in the first place because staffing being what it was, and work demands being what they were, it worked better. Those factors remain, so Schmidt’s request was for council to approve a continuation of the lunch-hour closure. What’s more, he said, “due to illness, our staffing levels currently are below the point we would be able to operate at lunchtime.”
The proposal before council included a period from June 12 to July 7 where the front counter would be open in the noon hour.
“This would be three weeks prior to the due date for taxes and the week after, to ensure residents (have) ample time to pay their taxes at the office,” said Schmidt in his written report.
Council passed a motion approving the closure as proposed.

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