Regional tri-council NotebookFeb. 21, 2019 meeting
Formed after the 2011 wildfire disaster to faciliate regional supervision of disaster recovery projects, the Regional-Tri Council now meets about three times a year, with the M.D. reeve, the town mayor and the Sawridge chief taking turns as chair, Chief Roland Twinn chaired the Feb. 21 meeting.
Tyler Warman started off the meeting by recognizing the work over several years by members of the FireSmart Committee. Formed after the 2011 wildfire disaster, this group oversaw the implementation of the tri-council’s directives on fire hazard reduction in and around communities, as well as an educational effort aimed at teaching people how to reduce susceptibility to wildfire. Recognized were board members Wayne Bowles and Brian Rosche, educators Patti Campsall and M.J. Munn-Kristoff, Alberta Ag and Forestry reps Jason Pankratow and Leah Lovequist, Shawn Hines of ATCO Electric and the FireSmart crew that works under the supervision of fire chief Jamie Coutts. Coutts accepted the award on behalf of crew chief Patrick McConnell.
Water line construction update
Town project manager Doug Baird had the latest on the efforts of the contractor to locate and plug the leak (or leaks) in the new regional waterline. He said they had it down to a 400-metre section and it came down to a lot of digging.
“They have to check every connection,” Baird said.
The cold weather of the first couple of weeks of February was causing problems on the project, Baird said. Machines wouldn’t start so they kept them warm by running generators through the night. Three generators were stolen, adding to the headaches.
None of this is costing the project any extra money – at least not yet. It’s up to the contractor to fix deficiencies and the town has a 15 per cent holdback it isn’t letting go of until the job is done properly. On the other hand, Baird reminded councillors the contractor has filed claim for an additional $1.3 million in costs.
“We think that’s a ridiculous amount,” he said, and predicted a settlement for less.
The tri-council sub-committee on health continues to meet. Councillor Joy McGregor informed her colleagues about some of the things the committee has been hearing.
On the good news side, the hospital in Slave Lake has hired an equipment sterilization person; apparently these technicians are not easy to find.
Mental health providers are in short supply, McGregor said.
The Family Care Clinic is down by a couple of physicians.
“Immigration is the hold-up,” McGregor said.
One thing that is happening quite a bit lately is mothers showing up to have babies delivered, having not once seen a doctor while pregnant.
“No one’s ever seen them,” she said, characterizing them as “young and high-risk people.”
M.D. councillor Sandra Melzer passed on what she’s been hearing about security concerns at the hospital. She mentioned “a rifle scare,” and a knife incident, as well as “two nurses cornered, hit and punched.”
McGregor said she’d follow up on it.
There’s movement on the affordable housing project for Slave Lake, reported town councillor Julie Brandle. Exactly what it’s going to end up being (i.e. how many units) is still a bit up in the air. One reason for that is the contribution by the federal government has shrunk. So what was looking to be a 20-unit building might end up being 16 units. Or some other number.
For sure, said Brandle, the number of homes removed to make way for the new complex has to be replaced. The prospective location covers about eight lots between 6th Ave. and 5th Ave. NW, next to Poplar Grove Park. That area has detached dwellings administered by the Slave Lake Housing Authority.
Brandle said a request for proposals (RFP) has gone out, for the job of demolition, planning and design. The forecast is for construction (actually destruction) to start next fall and the whole thing to be completed by fall of 2020.
Also being proposed is that the building would be something called ‘net zero’ with regard to energy use. That means, Brandle explained, that it would produce as much energy as it uses.
Adding to that, M.D. councillor Jeff Commins said the net zero idea was expected to add about a million dollars to the cost, which would result in fewer units being built. The province has committed $4.5 million to the project. The tri-council had given some money originally for the needs assessment.
Councillor Commins’ report on the tourism committee was a bit on the gloomy side. There hasn’t been a meeting in about six months, he said, and when meetings were being held, not many showed up. On the other hand, “we have about $18,000 in the bank account.”
Commins said the AGM for the tourism group is this Thursday, so “we’ll see what we can do,” about building membership.
Warman reported that two public members are needed for the corporation board. They would join the five members from the organizations that make up the Wildfire Legacy Corporation – the town, the M.D, the Sawridge, the Elks and the daycare society.
Good news is the Legacy Centre has been pretty busy the past few months, Warman said. That resulted in the projected operational deficit for 2018 being less than anticipated. The town and M.D. are talking about how to deal with the deficit going forward.
Sawridge Chief Roland Twinn, who was chairing the meeting, took the opportunity to thank the town for the job it has done in running the Legacy Centre.
“In my view there’s been a really big jump in the viability of the centre in the past year,” he said.
“It’s all Garry (Roth, the community services director for the town) and his team,” said Warman.
On the economic development front, the tri-council is going to spend some of the money it has left in this envelope to hire somebody to do a baseline study on the area.
“We want something with teeth in it,” said Warman.
Said M.D. CAO Allan Winarski: “It’s a chance to see if we can differentiate ourselves (from other jurisdictions.)
Warman explained subsequently to The Leader that there are some government grants available for economic development and they would be easier to shake loose with the baseline study in hand.
The next tri-council meeting is scheduled for May 23, 2019.