May 24, 2017 meeting
Figuring out seniors’ housing foundation requisitions
As requested by council, CAO Allan Winarski had a package of information detailing how seniors’ housing authorities come up with their requisition numbers for M.D. residents. It was rather long and difficult to follow, but the bottom line is that there was, in fact, a mistake in the calculations this year, resulting in something like a $30,000 over-charge.
This somewhat vindicated councillor Brad Pearson’s ‘dog with a bone’ approach to the issue. He had been ragging that particular bone for the past couple of months, because he suspected some sort of ‘double-dipping’ might be happening. That is, some residents in the west end of the M.D. might be paying into two different seniors housing foundations.
The good news, as Winarski reported, is that the mistake has been found and won’t be repeated.
Councillor Robert Esau, who had clashed sharply with Pearson a few weeks ago on this issue, had been doing some thinking on it.
“I’m glad Brad stuck to his guns,” he said.
No thanks on rec board
Council heard a proposal on the establishment of a parks, recreation and culture board by the Town of Slave Lake. M.D. council participation is desired. As town community services director Ruth Rolfe explained it, the board would hear proposals from community groups and make recommendations to council (or councils) on whether to fund things or not.
As conceived, the board would have an M.D. council rep, plus a member at large from the M.D.
There was no great enthusiasm for the notion around the council table.
“It’s just another meeting for us,” said Pearson.
“I don’t see the benefit,” said councillor Mike Skrynyk. “We’re all taxed to the nines already.”
“My thoughts exactly,” said Esau. “I wish them well on it.”
Council passed a motion to decline council participation.
Burn barrel bylaw gets third reading
Council gave third and final reading to the amended version of the bylaw that bans burn barrels and incinerators (or the use of them, rather) in hamlets, with the exception of Chisholm. Skrynyk’s opposition at the last meeting had prevented the matter from going to third reading. This time he was opposed too, but it carried by a 6 – 1 vote.
Bench in memoriam
Councillor Brian Rosche informed his colleagues that Cathy Schultz of Canyon Creek is seeking council’s approval to install a bench in that community in memory of her late husband Reg Carr. Her proposal is to place it in the west-end campground, overlooking the lake.
“It’s a perfect spot for it,” said councillor Pearson, adding that he hopes it will be “firmly fixed to the ground,” because things that aren’t have a way of ending up at the bottom of the bank.
“I think it’s a heck of a good idea,” said councillor Garry Horton.
Council passed a Skrynyk motion approving the placement of the bench.
Long and winding road acquisition
Perhaps predictably, a discussion on a proposal for the M.D. to take over a road leading to a single residential property led to a “can of worms,” debate on the state of rural roads generally and no resolution.
The matter is rather complicated. The applicant wants to subdivide a parcel out of a quarter section northeast of Slave Lake. It is understood by the authorities (provincial) that proper road access is the main stumbling block. Without it, the property is “a stranded asset,” according to the report prepared for council.
The road in question is partly owned by an energy company. It goes through both private and Crown land. Taking it over would entail some upgrades, or at least the assumption of “basic maintenance,” by the M.D. The recommendation before council was to do that.
“That road needs major upgrades,” said councillor Skrynyk.
“Who’s going to pay the bill?” asked councillor Pearson.
“Future developers,” said CAO Allan Winarski.
“Councillor Darren Fulmore was skeptical: “Once you take over a road people are going to be calling us to fix it.”
Responsibility for upkeep could be by way of road agreements with industrial users, Winarski said.
Councillor Brian Rosche said he thought it was in good enough shape and that “it would be more of an asset than a liability.”
Skrynyk, leery of setting precedents, pointed out that the M.D. has denied requests in other parts of the M.D. to upgrade or maintain (much less build) roads leading to single properties. What you do for one you have to do for all.
Granted, said Winarski. “There are other spots that are lurking. They’re going to pop up like zits on a beauty queen’s face.”
Councillor Esau had some examples.
“We have roads that are far (worse) than these,” he said. “The M.D. standard isn’t good enough. We can’t make the public exceed our own standards.”
“We should look at re-writing policies,” said Skrynyk.
“Do not make the public pay for a road going to a private development,” said Pearson. He added that in the case in question, further development is unlikely, and the current condition of the road is probably good enough to support one household.
Skrynyk wrapped things up with a motion to have administration look into the possibilities. With so many dispositions on one roadway, it might not even be possible for the M.D. to take it over, he said.
Financial this and that
The regular update for council on M.D. finances revealed no startling data. Jason Warawa reported that revenue to date (April 30) was a bit behind last year’s pace. This was for two main reasons: grants last year were higher and assessment this year is down.
Expenses to date are also fairly low, but that will be changing soon with construction season here. The biggest expenditure so far was on a grader – $430,000.
Ag Service Board – councillor Esau described the May 11 ASB get-together as “a small meeting.” A spray trailer should be delivered soon, he said. A solar panel info session is coming up, probably next month.
“There’s good information out there,” he said. “Government grants, etc.”
Councillor Fulmore added that quite a few workshops and tours are coming up – on such topics as soil health, crops and grazing.
Athabasca Watershed Council – councillor Horton asked if council wishes to continue its involvement. If so, he’d keep an iron in that fire until the next municipal election. The consensus was ‘yes.’
Lesser Slave Regional Waste – advertising for a full-time manager for the regional landfill has produced over 30 applications, council heard. In other news, volume is down a bit, Skrynyk reported.
Councillor Pearson said there has been some staff turnover.
Library board – the library manager is resigning, Pearson reported. A replacement is being sought.
Peace Library System – News from the recent meeting in Grande Prairie is this regional body has is receiving $1.1 million from the provincial government to repair its building in GP. It also has $215,000 to spend on initiatives promoting Indigenous engagement. Libraries can apply for it on a project basis, Pearson said.
Marten Beach – reeve Murray Kerik said he’d attended the recent meeting of the Marten Beach Cottagers’ Society. He advised the members of the M.D.’s plans to gravel the roads and rebuild walkways to the beach. Also of the difficulties residents there have with the rural address system. This sparked a lengthy sidebar on the general woes of this project. It might come down to the M.D. having to hire a contractor to sort it out, Winarski said.
Getting back to Marten Beach, Kerik said he’d spoken about the M.D. having applied for funding to put an emergency access (or egress) to the hamlet.
Lesser Slave Watershed Council – councillor Rosche reported that the annual general meeting for this organization is June 16 in Faust. On June 8 are a couple of meetings having to do with the integrated watershed management plan (IWMP).
Other plans for the watershed council are remediation work on the West Prairie River. And, “Today there was an RBC-sponsored clean-up on Devonshire Beach at the handicap access. Garbage only.”