M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Nov. 28, 2018 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

‘Lots of good news’

Northern Lakes College President Ann Everatt had her usual upbeat ‘state-of-affairs’ report for council. For starters, she said, enrollment is up 12 per cent.

“There are a lot more students from outside our region, partly due to our health sciences programs.”

These include the new paramedic programs, which are bringing people from other parts of Alberta.

Enrollment is also up in the dual credit area, by a whopping 60 to 70 per cent, Everatt said. This is the partnership with school divisions whereby high school students can take college courses and get both high school and college credit for them.

Good things are also happening in trades training, Everatt continued. Students are able to take their theory by ‘distance’ – meaning they don’t have to attend a classroom somewhere. Such a method of program delivery has long been a specialty of NLC. It has its challenges, but the great benefit is students can take courses – or at least parts of them – without having to relocate.

Everatt’s final piece of news was that the college is planning a fundraising event – a dinner and dance – for early in the new year.

“Most of our fundraising supports students,” she said. “Barriers they face – financial and transportation. We do what we can to eliminate barriers.”

“Thanks for your leadership,” said councillor Robert Esau.

“I have a great team behind me,” said Everatt.

Flood relief

Just in from the provincial government was news that applications are being welcomed for disaster relief arising from flooding last June. This affects some Marten Beach and Poplar Lane residents who suffered damage in high water events.

According to Lana Spencer, who presented the report, only those whose principal residence was hit qualify.

“We estimate 12 residences in Marten Beach,” Spencer said. “Three or four in Eating Creek (Poplar Lane).”

An ‘application centre’ is being set up on Monday, Dec. 10 at the Slave Lake Visitor Information Centre. It will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., for affected residents to may want help in applying for the relief. They have until Feb. 19 to apply.

It looks as if South Shore-area people who suffered damage due to high water won’t qualify. According to councillor Brad Pearson, high water caused electrical failures in sewer pumps, leading to damage. But according to what Spencer had been told, those types of things were supposed to be covered by insurance and therefore don’t qualify for disaster relief.

“What does insurance say?” asked reeve Murray Kerik.

“I don’t know,” said Pearson.

Finances on track

Jason Warawa, in his final report to council, said revenues are at about 101 per cent of budget. But take that with a grain of salt, he cautioned, because some of that hasn’t yet been collected, and “some won’t be collectible.”

On a more positive note, revenue from well-drilling is higher than expected. Based on the trend in the past couple of years, the M.D. budgeted for only $40,000 from this source. But there’s been quite a lot of drilling the Marten Hills.

“A 52 per cent increase over last year,” pitched in transportation director Bill Klassen.

Is that actual drilling, or promised drilling? asked Pearson.

“Planning to drill,” said Klassen. “It doesn’t mean they will.”

On a related note, abandoned wells are up 100 per cent over last year.

On the capital side, $4.2 million of $5.9 million has been spent so far, Warawa said. As usual some will probably carry over into 2019, due to unfinished work.

Work on the main M.D. administration building is well over budget (as discussed and lamented at previous meetings). However, overall, repairs to M.D. structures should “be a wash, due to savings in other areas,” said Klassen.

“How so?” said Pearson. “Enlighten me.”

Savings on the Canyon Creek arena and the Widewater Complex upgrades, Klassen said.

Weed control rebate?

Looking over the list of recent cheques issued by the M.D., councillor Pearson asked about several ‘weed control rebates,’ asking how it works.

Farmers buy the product and apply for a rebate from the M.D.’s Ag Service Board, said councillor Sandra Melzer. They get 50 per cent, said reeve Kerik.

“It’s a good program,” added councillor Esau. “It’s a real payback to the farmer.”

Esau went on to explain that it’s only for pastureland. He gave an example of a field that he said was 80 per cent weeds. After a few years of treatments (now down to spot application), “it’s at least 90 per cent grass.”

Costly culvert on Flat Top Rd.

The good news on the bridge culvert replacement on Flat Top Road is that it will be covered 75 per cent by provincial STIP funding. The bad news is the lowest bid was $56,000 more than the estimated cost.

So it’s $446,000 for the construction job, plus $76,000 for the engineering.

At those kind of costs, predicted councillor Pearson, “there’s going to be roads shut down.” Five-hundred twenty-two thousand for a culvert, Pearson continued. “That’s beyond me.”

The road serves the fire lookout tower on Flat Top Mountain in season, but nobody lives on it. There are industrial dispositions on it as well, added CAO Allan Winarski.

“One of the mills is going to be hauling out of there,” added Klassen.

The culvert in question is four or five kilometres south of the cemetery, Klassen said. It had been earmarked for replacement last year. It’s hardly the last one in that condition.

“There are about five in the M.D. in need of attention,” said councillor Melzer.

“Two-and-a-half million bucks,” said Kerik.

Board reports

Athabasca Watershed Council – It has been many years since an M.D. councillor had anything good to say about this group. The trend continues with Kerik and Pearson replacing Esau at the most recent meeting. Kerik called it “pretentious.’ Pearson was more charitable, but warned the group still considered the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council – or the watershed itself – to be “a subsidiary group.”

The Athabasca group is just embarking on an integrated watershed management plan, which the LSLWC has completed. Pearson praised the work of the latter group, and councillor Brian Rosche’s role in it over many years.

One interesting thing that comes up in AWC meetings is the idea of damming the Athabasca River. It’s just talk at this point, Pearson said, but worth knowing about.

Winarski added that proposals for dams do come up periodically, but haven’t amounted to anything. He said he’d keep an eye on it.

One of the proposals, said Esau, was for a dam at Smith, which could back the Lesser Slave River up all the way to the lake. Not to mention flood a lot of farmland upstream in the Athabasca Valley.

Community Education Committee – this group advises Northern Lakes College and councillor Becky Peiffer is the M.D. appointee. She said the CEC is “still recruiting from oil and gas and hospitality for the board.”

Health Advisory Council – councillor Rosche attended on Nov. 19. There was a presentation on seniors’ health. Rosche said he raised the question of funding for transportation to medical appointments. He told the AHS rep that if the goal is to keep seniors at home, then it would make sense to support such transportation.

“Hopefully there’s some way to get some funding, and take the load off our Community Assistance Board budget,” he said.

On the topic of new or better quarters for the Slave Lake EMS (ambulance), “they’re still stuck in that garage,” Rosche reported. “The Town of Slave Lake offered rent-free the old fire hall. That was turned down by AHS.”

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