Complaints about vagrants ‘through the roof’ in 2018

Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Mar. 12, 2019 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Complaints about vagrants were through the roof in 2018, senior town peace officer Mark Becker told council. Becker presented statistics showing 118 investigations on homelessness/vagrancy issues, up from 28 in 2017. Those only represent the ones that generated paperwork, he said. There were lots other encounters not in the books.

“Call volume is kicking our butts,” he said.

And because he’s been spending so much time on that sort of call, he’s spent less in other areas, such as traffic safety and animal control. However, there were quite a few of the latter in 2018 as well. Thirty-one animals were taken into care. By contrast, 2013 saw 99 animals impounded. Becker said a big help these days is publicity via social media, helping to re-unite pets and owners. He called it “our lifesaver.”

One big factor affecting enforcement services in 2018 was the resignation of the junior officer about halfway through the year. Replacing him is Shawn Cordeiro, who is undergoing training at the academy in Edmonton and is due to graduate on March 20.

Rec programs: what’s new and what’s envisioned

Council got the lowdown on town recreational programs – in progress, occasionally offered and in contemplation. Lots is going on – and it appears participation is significantly up at the multi-rec centre in particular.

“We’ve had a huge increase in our drop-in stats,” said Community Relations Manager Jill Hutchings. “The track has really picked up.”

“Pickle ball is a huge hit!” said new program coordinator Stacey Bjornsson. “It’s created a wonderful community of its own.”

Bjornsson said they are still looking at ideas for more programs for seniors. Holding dance evenings is one idea. It’s done in other communities, she said.

For the youngsters, nerf wars and glow skate events in recent weeks have been quite well received.

Bjornsson told council her team is also considering a revival of the ‘corporate challenge’ event. There were some “barriers” in the way it was designed that contributed to its demise, so those are being reviewed. Other ideas for programs include expanding the beach clean-up to more than just one day in the summer, Communities in Bloom and incorporating more ‘health and wellness’ aspects into town events.

Vehicles get removal notice

In CAO Brian Vance’s written report for council was the news that the town has issued removal notices for parked vehicles. These are ones that have been parked in the same spot “for weeks.” The rule is vehicles should only stay in one spot for 72 hours before being moved.

Sports field service levels

Responding to a request from council, administration had a report on service levels for sports fields and green spaces. It was more or less what the town is able to do, within budgets constraints.

The reason it came up, most likely, is because councillors often hear from user groups who would like better maintenance of ball diamonds and such. Ball diamonds do require quite a bit more work than other fields. This includes preventative maintenance to the clay substructure after flooding last year at Charity Park.

The town could increase service levels, but with the budget pretty much set, it isn’t likely to happen in 2019.

Intimidation on the bridge

Vance also reported that the town received the “first complaint of the season regarding homeless (people) intimidating youth on the steel bridge.” This refers presumably to the footbridge attached to the railway bridge across Sawridge Creek between downtown and Roland Michener School.
“RCMP were notified and patrols will be conducted when resources allow,” Vance’s report continued.

Regional waterline agreement

Vance presented council with a draft agreement on the management of the regional waterline. The agreement is to be between the town, the M.D. and the Sawridge.

Among other things, the draft states that the town will be responsible for overages on the capital cost (expected to be $2 to $3 million), and that the costs will be passed on via water bills to customers in all three jurisdictions.
“That’s very fair,” Vance said.

Further, the agreement states the town will operate the system, and again, pass on the costs proportionally. The existing water intake will be kept in use for the time being.

Community engagement on health

Councillor Joy McGregor reported on a regional community engagement session on health put on by Alberta Health Services in High Prairie. Present were concerned parties from Slave Lake, High Prairie and Wabasca. She said when participants were asked to list their challenges according to priority, the results were surprisingly similar, across the board.

At the top of the list was the difficulty of recruiting health professionals. Others had to do with getting everybody on the same page, with regard to access to resources and communication. Another was transportation to medical appointments.

“It was a really good meeting,” McGregor said.

Locally, AHS is wrangling a sort of ‘coffee house’ community info session. It’ll be at The Fix on March 20 and will only accommodate 50 people.

Regional Library Board

McGregor switched hats and offered a report from the latest library board meeting. The art wall was discussed. Apparently the library is having a hard time finding local artists interested in displaying their work on the available space in the library.

On a completely different note, the program of banning disruptive people from the library seems to be working, McGregor said.

Library programs generally continue to get a good response. McGregor said 43 people took part in something called ‘Blind Date With a Book.’ ‘Lego at the Library’ continues to be “really popular,” as well.

Proctoring exams is a service the library is offering. It did 22 of them in February, earning a bit of money for the library.

Finally, the board has taken over administration of the Legacy Scholarship from the committee that established it after the 2011 wildfire disaster.

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