Regional Tri-council Notebook

Sept. 17, 2020 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Teaming up on the boat launch area
On the tri-council agenda was the matter of the area around the weir on Lesser Slave River. M.D. of Lesser Slave River Reeve Murray Kerik, making the presentation, called it “an eyesore,” and suggested the three members of the tri-council join forces to do something about it.
Kerik mentioned the $100,000 donation from Alberta GM dealers that is in the bank and dedicated to improving the boat launch area generally. This includes the area by the weir and the river boat launch below the weir. It apparently had been maintained by the province as a recreational area, but no longer is.
“The first step is to try to get control of that land,” Kerik said. “Maybe turn it into a day use area?”
With that, Kerik made a motion to approach the appropriate minister, seeking a lease of the land.
“At a minimum we should have a plan to fix the bathrooms down there,” said M.D. councillor Brad Pearson. “And the grass kept cut.”
Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman (who was chairing the meeting) added: “Let’s have some decent signage.”
Sawridge First Nation Chief Roland Twinn spoke about the possibility of developing some tourism based on the river, as opposed to the lake, which he pointed out is too rough for boating seven days out of 10.

The future of the fire service
Funding for the FireSmart component of the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Fire Service runs out in 2021. The question is how to proceed after that. Tyler Warman gave an overview of the fire service, with an emphasis on how much it has changed in the past 10 years. It is a lot busier, for one thing – three times the number of calls for service in 2019 compared to 2009. Meanwhile, requirements for training continue to become more stringent, per OH&S.
Costs to the town and M.D. have gone up as well, which is sometimes questioned at other council meetings. Pearson was perhaps referring to those costs when he said: “When you plant an apple tree, at some point you want to eat apples.”
Picking up the metaphor and running with it, Warman said: “We’re already eating apples. Last year we (the fire service) brought in $100,000.”
That was in renting out its training facility, which Warman said there is reason to think it will continue to be a solid source of revenue. Warman added that in checking with other regional fire services, the LSLRFS is not overstaffed, “and we generate a lot more revenue than other departments.”
So the question is: do we keep the FireSmart personnel on the payroll, and if so, how many?
Pearson was like a dog with a bone. “We’re well over a million dollars (M.D. contribution). What are we doing to ease the burden?”
Alex Pavcek, the fire chief, offered some perspective on the numbers. The training centre actually brought in $150,000 last year, he said, and deployments of personnel outside the area (mainly High Level) brought in another $325,000.
The proposal before the group was to transfer the remainder of FireSmart money from the M.D. to the town and for the town and M.D. to meet for “in-depth discussions,” about the make-up of the fire dept. after the money runs out.
M.D. councillor Sandra Melzer made the motion.
“We don’t want to lose any fire services,” she said. “We need this.”
The motion passed.

Issues in housing
Members heard reports on various committees, including one from Brad Pearson on the affordable housing project the tri-council has been interested in. A certain amount of provincial funding has been promised, but the province keeps changing its mind on what sort of a project it wants.
The latest indications from the government, Pearson said, are that it favours a ‘PPP’ approach (which stands for ‘public-private partnership’). This would see a private company building and running the apartment building, with a “blended” array of rental types – some of them subsidized and some at market rates. The market rates are supposed to help pay for the ‘affordable’ ones. That’s the concept, but Pearson is skeptical it would work in a small-town context.
“It may work in Edmonton,” he said. “Not here.”
Warman agreed. Economies of scale, he said. The cities have it, but we don’t.
Pearson said there is an example already in Slave Lake where the government provided some money to a company to include ‘affordable’ units in an apartment complex. It isn’t working, he said.
In other housing news, Pearson reported that there have not been any cases of COVID in the lodge in Slave Lake, and “that’s a good thing.” There was one case in another home operated by the housing authority, Pearson said, and it has been “isolated and contained. We’re in good shape compared to other seniors’ facilities.”
There are some vacancies. One reason is the recent opening of a 56-unit seniors’ housing facility in Wabasca.

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