Problems on 5th Ave. NW: job may not be completed this year

Town of Slave Lake
Council notebook

Oct. 9, 2018 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Difficulties with the water system are slowing the completion of the road re-hab job on 5th Ave NW. Town manager Brian Vance told council the curb stops aren’t holding pressure. Some have been replaced and the decision has been made to change out the whole works.

“We hadn’t expected that, but we’re dealing with it,” he said.

Vance said the cost would be about $150,000, but that’s still within the project budget.

Councillor Darin Busk asked what the chances are of getting the whole job done this season. It depends entirely on the weather, Vance said. After the water problems are fixed the lines have to be disinfected, which takes several days. After that the curbs and gutters have to be done, with the pavement coming last.

“We would need perfect weather,” to get all that done this year, he said.

What to do about economic development

“Do we want to play in that space?” was how mayor Tyler Warman put it to his colleagues in a lengthy discussion on the role council envisions for the town in economic development. There are of course budget implications for any kind of involvement. There’s also a price to pay for doing nothing.

And – as it turns out – there are all sorts of angles to consider. One of them is whether the town’s involvement in the fledgling tourism promotion organization should be part of, or separate from, other ec/dev efforts. Another is how the town’s involvement in the operation of the Visitor Information Centre would fit.

Stick with tourism, but separately from economic development, seemed to be the sentiment among councillors. Also, keep up with the commitment to the VIC, in partnership with the M.D.

That left that other notion of economic development; what is it? How should it look? Should somebody be hired to go after new businesses? Or should the focus be on promoting the area, improving its ‘brand’ and ‘putting it on the map?’ Warman figured that a lot more could be done in that area. Or both? Or a combination?

Councillor Busk said he was all for boosting business for what’s already here. He also spoke in favour of identifying gaps in the market and inviting businesses to fill it. Appliance repair was an example. He also mentioned the college as bringing economic benefit to the area and suggested “maybe we could work with them as well.”

Do we want to get into incentives? Warman asked, not getting much response.

Warman put out another hypothetical: say we’ve got $50,000 to spend. Where do we spend it? On more promotion using existing resources, or hire somebody to pound the pavement?

Council was not being asked to make any decisions, nor did they.

Committee reports

Regional Housing Authority – councillor Julie Brandle said with the M.D. of Opportunity set to open its own seniors’ lodge, the Lesser Slave Housing Authority can expect less of a contribution from that municipality. That of course means the requisition from its other partners would increase.

In other news, the money the housing authority gets for capital improvements to its properties has plummeted this year – from $545,000 to $27,000.

As a result, “Lots of stuff on hold,” said Brandle.

Finally, the apartment project is “still on hold, pending government decision.”

Tri-council health – councillor Joy McGregor said a program is coming by which patients can get access to test results and such without having to travel distances to get them. And contrary to what some people seem to think, “There are still lots of providers taking patients, and we’re still delivering babies in Slave Lake.”

Health care workers taking abuse online is still a problem, McGregor said.

“Maybe we need to be more conscious,” she said.

Library board – McGregor reports that 286 people turned out for 27 programs the library in Slave Lake held in September. Outreach programs continue – for example at the seniors’ lodge and the long-term care facility.

Budget-wise, the board “is struggling with the minimum wage increase,” McGregor continued. “It has ripple effects.”

Wellness conference – McGregor put on her Community Education Committee hat and reported that a wellness conference is all booked for the college on Oct. 20. Cost is $25 and it features sessions on social media, emotional wellness, holistic health, green living, nutrition and financial and life planning. The keynote speaker is Michelle Cederberg.

Municipal Planning Commission – councillor Rebecca King reported that the MPC had been fairly busy. For one thing, it approved locations for four cannabis stores; also approved was the expansion of a home-cleaning business, the relocation of an accounting firm, and the set-up of an industrial repair shop.

Airport Commission – councillor Brice Ferguson said the commission voted to write off $3,000 in uncollectable receivables from two companies in receivership. In other news, Taylor Kelham was appointed as director at large. Ads will be going out for an assistant airport manager, Ferguson said, to replace the retiring Ken Skahl.

Mayor’s corner

Mayor Warman started off his meeting-ending blurb by thanking those who helped put together a barbecue for town staff. Then he went on to mention a meeting with people from the University of Alberta – a ‘community engagement’ exercise by the U of A.

There was a sub-committee of the tourism group on trails, Warman said, which provided some good input. There’s talk of mapping what there is, and promoting it.

Warman said he was looking forward to 25 hours of budget meetings over the following few days with his council colleagues. The budget document, he said, runs to about 700 pages.

Finally, Warman said he’d had the pleasure of accompanying members of the family of the late helicopter pilot Jean-Luc Debas to the Debas memorial at Canyon Creek. Two were from New Zealand and three from France. Debas lost his life fighting the 2011 wildfires, when his chopper fell into Lesser Slave Lake.

“They took lake water and sand,” he said. “I bought them lunch. It was a neat thing.”

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