M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Water, other issues in Chisholm, AB

June 26, 2019 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Open forum

One of the reasons council has three meetings per year in M.D. communities is to give the residents a chance to attend, ask questions and air concerns. At Flatbush, those ranged from potable water to roads to ditches.

Chisholm’s drinking water dilemma

A resident of Chisholm had a few pointed queries for council. First – what happened to an eight-year-old M.D. commitment to solve the lack of potable water? Nobody on council seemed to remember that pledge, but they were sympathetic with the need for drinkable H2O at the community hall. They heard that it could have been rented a couple of times already this season, but the lack of water killed the deal.

Councillor Sandra Melzer had a suggestion: the M.D. could supply jugs of good water from the Flatbush store, which it apparently does for the Flatbush Complex.

As for the idea of installing a well on the site, reeve Murray Kerik said “the well is the cheap part.” Putting in a treatment system isn’t, and although individual property owners can do without one of those, “the M.D. can’t.”

How about rain barrels, was a question put forward by CAO Allan Winarski, as a partial solution to the problem.

Road to the river

The same resident asked for a progress update on the M.D.’s plan to make a road from the hamlet to the Athabasca River. There’s been some.

“We just got environmental approval,” said Kerik.

Winarski elaborated. “The disposition has to be registered,” he said. “It’s not terribly onerous. There’s a bit of work to do before we build the road.”

Chisholm corner

Another headache for Chisholm residents is at the Chisholm access road and Hwy. 44. The same resident that aired the above two concerns called it “a big frickin’ hole,” and noted eight years ago “somebody said they would look into it. Nothing happened.”

Also, “It’s the only place on Hwy. 44 that does not have a turning lane. Can you put a bug in their ear about it?”

Winarski promised in both cases to look into it.

Issues with ditches

One resident informed council there’s a lot of wood debris in a ditch that the M.D. has supposedly dug out. Range Rd. 13, to be precise. On a related topic, he said the grade in the ditches recently treated by the M.D. does not seem to be correct, with water sitting in pools instead of draining.

Councillor Esau added to the list of ditch problems. Mulched material sometimes ends up damming a ditch, he said.

Finally, another resident told council some of the ditching work in the hamlet of Flatbush is unfinished. He asked what the plan is for wrapping it up.

He asked if the M.D. could also spray an area of weeds near its yard, saying, “It’s just ugly.”

Said Winarski: We intend to finish what we started.

Staging area for North Shore Trail

Per a request from councillor Brian Rosche, council discussed the idea of the M.D. becoming the leaseholder of a staging area for a section of the Trans Canada Trail under development on the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake. Rosche said the M.D. wasn’t being asked to fund the project, or to do any of the work. However, he said it was possible some minor maintenance would fall to the M.D. eventually – such as plowing the approach.

Councillor Melzer made the motion to support the proposal – with the proviso that the M.D. not be required to spend any money on it.

“I’m totally in favour,” said councillor Jeff Commins, adding that it was a “minimal” commitment from the M.D., considering the recreational benefits.

“We support trails already,” noted councillor Esau. “If you don’t have a staging area it’s not great for trails.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Grader training?

Councillor Melzer had a question – apparently something she’s been hearing – about what sort of training M.D. grader operators get. The obvious implication is some of them aren’t doing a very good job.

“It’s all I hear about,” she said.

Winarski said most of the training is in the field and there’s a range of skills and ideas about how to do the job. The use the road is getting is also a factor.

“Welcome to municipal life,” he said. “Almost everyone is an expert in grader operating.”

Some shoulder pulls are planned for this summer, Winarski added.

Who gets to use a transfer station?

Another Melzer question for administration: She said messages on the topic have been mixed – not to say downright contradictory.

It turns out only M.D. residents are allowed to use the transfer stations free of charge. For others, there’s a fee. Apparently the rule is not strictly applied.

“They’re supposed to pay,” said Winarski. “There’s a little bit of discretion there.”

Most people, when told they have to pay, will do it, Winarski added. Others, unfortunately, won’t, and whatever they are carrying will end up in a ditch or somewhere in the bush.

No random camping at Wagner

This is an issue generally, but in this case the M.D. land in question is by the lake, adjacent to the Widewater Complex. It has long been used as a camping area during events at the complex, but random camping occurs at other times, and behaviour is sometimes not proper. Garbage is strewn; other stuff is dumped.

“The M.D. peace officer arranged for the clean-up of abandoned shacks and an old camping trailer this week,” said Winarski in his written report for council.

With no structure, no revenue and no ability to supervise, and facing complaints from neighbours, the M.D. has some questions to answer. Should it ban camping altogether? That seemed to be what Winarski was recommending.

“That is very valuable property,” he said. “What is best for your community in there? At least maintain it as a nice green space.”

Winarski hinted the property could be developed into something that could be a money-maker for the M.D, given its lakeside location.

Council passed a Brian Rosche motion to ban camping “and enforce it.”

Financial status

“We’re in reasonably good shape,” said director of finance Pat Sibilleau, starting off her monthly report.

By this she was mainly referring to revenues and expenditures being generally on track. She fielded a couple of questions on what appeared to be anomalies. One had to do with 61 per cent of the admin. budget having been spent as of May 31. This is due to contracts having been paid out early, she said, with the work to be done through the rest of the year.

Lesser Slave Watershed Council

Reporting on the highlights from the annual general meeting of this organization, councillor Rosche said $10,000 was handed over to the Forest Education Society. That organization’s long-time executive director, M.J. Munn-Kristoff, announced her retirement, Rosche added.

Another highlight was the report on bird migration monitoring from Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory ED Patti Campsall. She told the group (Rosche said) about certain radio signal-equipped warblers flying from their winter homes in Venezuela to Alberta in six days.

“That’s better than Air Canada!” quipped reeve Kerik.

History Check launch

Kerik said he’d attended the June 21 provincial launch of the History Check mobile app, held in Edmonton. This is the project conceived and (mostly) carried out by Sheila Willis of Smith.

“It went really well,” Kerik said. “She’s got 659 sites on her app. “You can submit user info. The government is right behind her.”

You might as well download it onto your phone, Kerik further advised. “Everything is going to be right there.”

Added councillor Esau: “We commend her for her stick-to-it-iveness.”

CAO report

The gist of Winarski’s update for council on the general state of affairs was that the workload is huge, but staff is managing. Vacancies in two key positions are forcing those who remain to take on more work. This is in the department of utilities and transportation, both of which are without a director.

“Your field people are stepping up,” he said.

Recruitment for the two senior management positions continues, but “it is a struggle,” Winarski said. “We’re going to be stretched.”

Road woes

Winarski’s update included the news that the M.D. gravelling program is almost wrapped up for the season. That’s usually good news entirely, but not this year.

“Some of our roads really got hammered hard,” in the re-gravelling process, said councillor Esau.

Councillor Melzer agreed, noting that one road in particular (which may or may not be Township Rd. 664, “I’ve never seen it like that.”

Esau wondered if doing the work later in the summer might produce better results. Winarski said the timing “could be tweaked,” for subsequent years.

Twp. Rd. 664

Disaster funding approved

Good news, Winarski reported: provincial disaster relief has been approved with regard to expenses incurred in the recent wildfire activities. These include the setting up of large water tanks in a couple of M.D. locations – just in case. What to do with the contents of these tanks was a conundrum. Emptying them on the spot was considered unwise – given that they were oilfield units and the water could have been contaminated. So it was all offloaded and hauled to Tervita for processing, Winarski said.

Flood mitigation

Winarski said a company called Golder has been contracted to produce flood mitigation recommendations for Eating Creek and Marten Beach. The reports will form the basis of subsequent applications for funding for said mitigation recommendations. Winarski cautioned council that the chances for success may depend on M.D. willingness to contribute cash.

“You are in competition with the rest of Alberta for flood mitigation money,” he said. “So they (the consultant) want to know how much skin you guys have in the game.”

Winarski added that the consultants “want us to look at buying people out.”

No thanks to ATM

Council voted unanimously to turn down a proposal to install an automated teller machine (ATM) at the Widewater Complex. The risk of theft seemed to be the major impediment.

“Three hundred dollars wouldn’t cover anything,” said councillor Melzer.
That figure was how much in rent the M.D. would get, annually, in the proposal.

Ag policies updated

Per recent practice, the M.D.’s Ag Service Board has been reviewing its policies and sending updated versions of them a few at a time for council’s approval. Accordingly, council gave its blessing to the new Ag Services Admin. policy, Veterinary Services Inc. policy and Clubroot of Canola policy.

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