M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

July 18 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

With council’s blessing

Council approved a request from the regional library board for the M.D. to cover the mileage cost for an M.D. member of that board to attend a library conference in Grande Prairie. The amount approved was $348.

Support for WWW

Council approved a funding request from the Wounded Warriors Weekend organizers. No amount was requested, but councillor Brian Rosche proposed $2,000, saying he is “passionate about our veterans. It behooves us to support them any way we can.”
The motion passed unanimously, with the proviso that the group be encouraged (if there is a next time) to apply earlier to the Community Assistance Board.
The Wounded Warriors Weekend goes Aug. 3 to 6.

Fire Services Agreement

Council was asked to make a final payment of $163,000 to close out 2017 in the Fire Services Agreement between the Town of Slave Lake and the M.D. As presented by finance director Jason Warawa, this brings the M.D. share of fire services costs to about $70,000 over the three-year average, which has to be absorbed in the 2018 budget. Warawa pointed out that the overage includes a newly-agreed-on annual lump sum of $62,500 to “partially offset the capital investment into Hall 1 by the TOSL.” Setting that aside, the increase is only $10,000 more than the three-year average.
Further, Warawa said Hall 1 responded to 377 calls in 2017, 179 of them in the M.D.
“The public is happy with the coverage we’re getting,” said reeve Murray Kerik. “It’s working well.”
Keep in mind, added CAO Allan Winarski, under the new agreement, “when M.D. equipment is used in town, we’ll be compensated. You’ve addressed many of the issues that cause many municipalities to fight into perpetuity.”

Inter-Municipal Agreement

Council was also asked to approve the 2018 payments on the co-funding agreement on recreational, cemetery animal control (etc.) facilities and services. This one has a basic 79 – 21 split, based on population. It includes 10 per cent of tax growth at the Mitsue Industrial Park to the town. When the agreement was signed late last year (or early this one), some of the costs weren’t known. Now they are. Due to a new clause in the agreement requiring the M.D. to contribute annually to capital costs (at the MRC, for example), rather than on a case-by-case basis, this year’s payment is up quite a bit from 2017’s. Council approved the $540,000 payment for 2018.

‘Chasing nickels and dimes’

Councillor Brad Pearson questioned the practice of hiring somebody to haul water to Marten Beach. With recently-purchased equipment, couldn’t the M.D. save money by doing the work itself?
He didn’t get much support for that idea.
“It’s not much of an expense considering what we’re getting,” said councillor Jeff Commins.
“Maintenance and headaches,” said councillor Sandra Melzer.
“When you pull people off other things, there’s a cost over there,” said Winarski. “I don’t know if you’re going to find the grand cost savings.”
“You’re just going to chase nickels and dimes,” said Commins.
That was enough for Pearson.

Rugged & Real Scholarships

Council went in camera to discuss and debate which of the three eligible applicants should receive this year’s Rugged & Real Scholarship. All we can tell you is they didn’t have the heart (at least so it would seem) to turn any of them down, so all three get what they applied for. Luke Miller, Eric Boswell and Zoey Pearson will all receive $1,000.

First reading on ‘extensive agriculture’ in CR1 zone

An applicant wishes to set up a farming operation on a quarter section of land on Bayer Rd. To accommodate that, administration recommended that the term ‘extensive agriculture’ be added as a discretionary use in the Country Residential 1 zone on lots bigger than two hectares.
Another option would be to change the zoning to ‘agricultural,’ but that was not recommended, and council did not want it anyway. By retaining the CR1 designation, it would keep the land available for residential expansion sometime in the future.
Giving first reading to the bylaw change does not mean the change will be approved. The next step is the required public hearing, which will likely happen at the Aug. 15 council meeting.

Canyon Creek arena

Council gave the thumbs-up to the low bidder on the Canyon Creek arena upgrade job. The Grande Prairie firm GSL Construction had bid $277,000 on the project, which calls for bringing the arena to where it can be re-opened for use, hopefully for the upcoming winter season.
Bill Klassen, presenting the report, said there should be enough left in the budget to add an exterior shed for the ice-cleaning and flooding machine.

Admin building improvements

Council approved the lowest of three bids on the job of renovations to the main M.D. administration building. The work is to “remediate the current heating issues of the building,” said Klassen in his written report.
The M.D. had budgeted $225,000 for the job. AK Exteriors bid $160,000.

Roads report: ‘Little bits at a time’

Klassen answered questions from councillor Jeff Commins on a couple of damaged spots – the Turners Estates road and Southshore Drive near Nine-Mile Point. Both had been damaged by heavy truck traffic and other work associated with the regional waterline, he said. In the latter case, flooding made it worse. Klassen said the Southshore Drive piece was already much improved. Where the waterline construction was a contributing factor, he said the contractor should be fixing it.
Councillor Robert Esau asked if the ban on Jolliffe Rd. would be on for the entire summer. It probably will, said Klassen, but farmers have an exemption for 90 per cent.
“It’s a trade-off,” he said. “Farmers will have some inconvenience, but at $500,000 to $600,000 per kilometre to rebuild….”
Speaking of the cost of rebuilding, Klassen told council he’d done some rough calculations on what it would take to bring all M.D. roads up to standard. The number is $420 million.
“So we’ll do little bits at a time,” he said.

FCSS grants

Council considered two applications for grants through the M.D.’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) program. One was for $1,800 for the Outback Power Pack summer camp for girls, organized by the Town of Slave Lake FCSS. The other was a request for $875 from the Regional Arts Council for its summer art camp for kids. Council approved both with little or no discussion.

Board reports

Regional library board – Surprising numbers from three appearances at area libraries by kilt-wearing storyteller Calum Lykan, as reported by councillor Peiffer. Seventeen people showed up at the Slave Lake show, 75 at the Smith library appearance and 19 at Flatbush.

Pembina Zone (of the Rural Municipalities Association) – As reported by councillor Esau, the following topics were discussed: the impact of Greyhound shutting down its service in rural Alberta, the upcoming review of the Police Act, rural crime, infrastructure funding and implications of cannabis legislation.
“If you’re 18 years or older you can have 30 grams on your person and four plants per residence – not per person.”
Further speculation on the cannabis situation from a municipal perspective: whatever rules are imposed the sale of cannabis are probably going to be challenged in court. This was from councillor Commins.

Meeting with tourism minister – Councillor Brian Rosche reported on a meeting with Alberta Tourism and Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda. Beach clean-up issues were discussed.
“I asked if he knew of any other flagship parks in Alberta where volunteers were required to clean up. He said no.”
Rosche said he also brought up the difficulties a local group is facing in developing a section of the Trans Canada Trail on the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake, and the general shortage of lake access at the west end.

Community Futures – councillor Pearson said a new executive was elected at the recent AGM, and nine of 15 board positions filled. There’s a suggestion to renew the lease at the VIC for another year.

Northern Alberta Elected Leaders – reeve Murray Kerik gave the lowdown on the most recent meeting of this group, held in Valleyview. Two of the more interesting news tidbits out of it had to do with rail transportation. One was that a rail line connecting Alberta and Alaska has been proposed, has investors and is “ready to go.”
The other item is that rail capacity in northwestern Alberta is not meeting demand. Kerik said he heard that Tolko’s High Prairie OSB mill has cut back a shift because it can’t get its product shipped to market fast enough. Councillor Esau added that the ag industry is facing similar challenges.

Economic development – councillor Commins had attended an exploratory meeting on forming a new regional economic development association, spearheaded by Big Lakes County. Attending were reps from the towns of Slave Lake, High Prairie and Swan Hills, the county and M.D.s of LSR and Opportunity.
“We ran through a lot of ideas,” Commins said. “Things we could work together on.”
Commins added the suggestion is to concentrate on one or two projects and seek funding for those, as opposed for general administration of a new ec/dev organization.

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