Sept. 12, 2018 meeting
Council’s Sept. 12 meeting took place at the Mitsue Fire Hall, thanks to renovation work on the M.D.’s main office building in Slave Lake. Judging by the discussion on the condition of that project, it may not be the last meeting in an alternate location.
Council ratifies support letter for Vanderwell Contractors
Confirming what it had already decided upon, council voted to ratify a letter of support from the M.D. for a local lumber mill.
Back in August, Vanderwell Contractors had asked for M.D. support for its application to a provincial government program that provides funding for ‘green’ projects. Called the ‘Best Challenge’ program, it has $70 million for such initiatives, and Vanderwell’s hopes to get some of it to help it complete a power co-generation project. The project – already 80 per cent completed, according to information in council’s agenda package – would produce power by burning wood waste at the mill site.
The letter, signed by reeve Murray Kerik, asks the province to “give fair consideration to this initiative of relevance to reducing the impacts of climate change.”
Post offices in Canada have not provided banking services since 1968, but there is talk about reviving it. The matter came before M.D. council for its consideration in February of this year, as being an item under discussion at the level of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
The idea is that it would provide a useful service to residents of small communities with no banks, make rural post offices more viable and provide some employment.
The wish of council at that time was to talk about it again when there was more information. Acting CAO Jason Warawa told council there is a motion on the matter before the Parliament of Canada; also that the Rural Municipalities Association (of Alberta) has no position on it. A couple of major unions, he added, are very much in favour of it.
Councillor Robert Esau – somewhat surprisingly, given his customary lamentations about the decline of rural communities and the importance of the M.D. doing whatever it can to resist the trend – proceeded to pour cold water over the notion.
“I am against this kind of a thing,” he said. “I think the post office has kind of lived its life.”
Councillor Jeff Commins was similarly unenthusiastic: “They’re shutting down all the small facilities,” he said. “It’s good information, but that’s about it.”
Council accepted the report as information.
New man in the fields
Director of Rural Services Russell Jassman began his introduction of the M.D.’s new agricultural fieldman by saying, “I quit!” He’s been filling in as acting ag fieldman during the recruitment process.
But now they’ve found their man and he’s Barry Kolenosky, who was present.
“He has a lot of experience,” Jassman said.
Council made and passed the two required motions: one to rescind the appointment of Jassman and one to appoint Kolenosky.
An ag fieldman is responsible for overseeing M.D. compliance with various provincial laws and associated regulations having to do with agriculture. These include the Weed Control Act, the Agricultural Pest Act and the Soil Conservation Act.
Seeking savings on power
It turns out there are savings to be had in the distribution and transmission portion of a municipal power bill. This news has come to the M.D. courtesy the same company that organizes bulk-buying discounts for members of the Rural Municipalities Association.
As explained to council by acting CAO Jason Warawa, there are certain M.D. installations (water and wastewater treatment plants, for example) where “the contract demand that the original installation proposal was based on is significantly higher than the actual use.”
What this means is the M.D. is paying higher bills than it needs to, according to the analysis of an outfit called Energy 8760. What it says it can do is get those bills down, for a fee amounting to 40 per cent of the savings.
Question for council: should we go ahead with this?
The estimated annual saving is $18,000, assuming usage stays about the same as it has been.
There is a catch, however. ATCO Electric may have to charge more ‘up front’ to recoup capital costs.
Administration’s recommendation was to proceed. Council voted in favour of that.
Admin. building: new developments to take longer
The re-hab job on the M.D.’s Slave Lake administration building is getting more complicated and will take longer to complete. Council heard with the discovery of water damage in the walls, the scope of work has changed and some of the building has become off-limits. Warawa said the operations department will be working out of a trailer on the site, and others will move to temporary quarters at the Visitor Information Centre across the highway. Some will be able to stay. Work is expected to take until the middle of November now.
Warawa said it appears the walls with the water damage are ones in areas of the building that don’t have an overhang. There is a new proposal to re-clad these walls (once the damaged material is replaced) with metal. This is estimated at $57,000. Council could consider the idea of re-cladding the entire building, he said, although it seems unlikely there is the same damage in the walls where the roof does overhang.
“I’d be interested in what it would cost to metal the other two sides,” said reeve Kerik. “It’s not a big job.”
The original exterior is stucco over panelboard.
New speed limit for Nine Mile
Council dealt with a recommendation to reduce the speed limit on Beach Road (Nine Mile Point) to 30 kilometres per hour from 50. This was in response to a request from residents.
If obeyed, the new limit would add approximately 30 seconds to the time it takes to drive the 700-metre road.
Information in council’s package for consideration included the following tidbit from the World Health Organization: 90 per cent of pedestrians survive when struck by cars traveling at 30 kph, whereas at 50 kph, only 20 per cent survive.
Council approved the speed limit reduction with no debate.
Lesser Slave Lake Regional Waste Management Corporation – Councillor Commins reported that things are going pretty well. Volume is up and the books are looking good, he said.
The board met with waste collection contractor GFL and learned “they are prepared to negotiate rates and to divert waste back from Thorhild to our facility.”
Interestingly enough, it isn’t a slam dunk.
“We’re almost overloaded at the moment,” Commins said. “We’re running out of space with Tolko waste.”
That prompted a question from councillor Sandra Melzer about what this Tolko waste consisted of. The mill is cleaning up its log yard, Commins explained, and a lot of bark is being trucked to the landfill.
In other landfill news, Commins said the commission is looking at hiring a concrete crusher to deal with the stockpile. Councillor Esau suggested they consider one that did some work at a good price for the Athabasca landfill.
Regional Library Board – councillor Peiffer reported on attendance numbers at library programs over the summer. In Slave Lake, 992 kids took part in 29 programs. In Smith, 26 took part in the Summer Reading Program.
News from the Flatbush Library is long-time librarian Rose is training somebody as a “casual fill-in.”
CARE conference – councillor Melzer had attended a conference on recycling at Fort McMurray, where she learned lots. One thing she learned was about a process being used there that turns waste lumber into a marketable product. Another turns organic waste into a dehydrated “fluff” that can be compressed and used as fuel.
Styrofoam recycling is going on as well, producing something that can be turned into plastic products.
Melzer asked if the M.D. would consider solar power if it had to rebuild one of its facilities. At the conference she’d learned of a municipal building at Valleyview that had been set up like that. The investment is high, said Warawa.
Councillor Esau mentioned that Leduc County is into alternatives for quite some time and are “putting into the grid more than they’re taking out of it.”
Coun. Sandra Melzer
Wildfire Legacy Corporation – Reeve Kerik reported that the financial picture at the Legacy Centre has improved. A recent event was very well-attended and bookings look good for the rest of the year.
“Peace in the valley,” he said, adding however it still operates at a deficit.
Economic development – Kerik’s other report was on a ‘webinar’ on economic development he’d participated in. Provincial government people were involved, and the message was familiar: they’d like a bigger region. Kerik, however, said that had been tried and it didn’t work. Reps from the Town of High Prairie, the Town of Slave Lake and Big Lakes County also took part. The province is going to put a consultant on it, he said.
Boat launch area – Kerik’s final item had to do with the boat launch/park on the north side of Lesser Slave River by the weir. It needs cleaning up and the province and M.D. have apparently been tossing responsibility back and forth like a hot potato. Or maybe just hoping the other would take care of it. It’s definitely a provincial responsibility, Kerik said, and he thinks MLA Danielle Larivee accepts that and will get something done.
Athabasca Watershed Council – councillor Esau said he’s been having trouble making meetings, due to short notice. However, he’d like to keep trying, because he thinks there’s value in attending. He said he also brings a perspective to the table that is somewhat different than the prevailing one and thinks is needed there.
Esau also shared the unsettling news that the watershed council’s office has been broken into three times recently.
Kerik held up a certificate from the Wounded Warriors Weekend organization, recognizing the M.D. for its support for the event in Slave Lake back in August. He also spoke about “a nice letter” from Alberta Agriculture & Forestry Minister O’Neil Carlier, acknowledging a letter from council “supporting our forest industry.”