Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Sept. 8, 2020 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Logos on the ice
First question for the CAO following his opening report for council was from councillor Darin Busk. He wanted to know how the spat over logos on the ice in the Tervita Arena had been dealt with. Or if it had. CAO David Kim didn’t know, so mayor Tyler Warman put his oar in.
“We’re looking at options,” he said.
What happened was due to an agreement the town has with the Slave Lake Icedogs, the Icedogs’ logo appears on the ice in the front arena, and not the usual Slave Lake Minor Hockey logo. Some people apparently did not think this was right and let the town know about it. The deal with the Icedogs, Warman explained, gives them advertising rights in the Tervita. The SLMHA logo will definitely be in the Pembina Arena, he said, and the ‘options’ being looked at presumably include some way of displaying that logo out front as well.
“I’m hopeful and confident,” he concluded.

Itching for ice
Speaking of ice, councillor Shawn Gramlich wanted to know (on behalf of people who are asking him) why the ice can’t be rented already. Warman said because the operators are waiting for the user groups to confirm their schedules. But that’s for later, Gramlich said. He meant, “right now. Tonight.”
“The ice is not ready,” said Warman. “It’s ready Sept. 14.”

Outstanding property taxes and utility payments
Property taxes are due as of the beginning of this month, following a COVID-induced two-month deferral. So how’s it going?
Director of finance Roland Schmidt had the answer for council. Outstanding taxes (I.e. unpaid), he said, “are significantly higher than in previous years.”
The figure is $3.4 million over 1,192 accounts. Some of that is for years prior to 2019, but the bulk of it is from the 2019 crop. On the other hand, $1.2 million of that is from accounts on a monthly payment plan. That leaves $1.7 million outstanding on accounts that were supposed to be paid up by the end of August. Schmidt said normally at this point (which would be in July in a normal year), $500,000 to $700,000 would be outstanding.
The situation, said Schmidt, “has the potential to cause short-term cash flow issues.” The town has a line of credit available from a local bank just in case.
In the case of utility accounts, $491,345, over 2,659 accounts, is owing. This is in line with past years Schmidt said.
Of that amount $354,789 is from accounts that are current (I.e the past month), while $136,556 is owing for periods of more than a month.

Committee reports
Inter-municipal – Mayor Warman said the town, M.D. and Sawridge First Nation have been talking about the future of the FireSmart program and “we’ve got a good path charted forward.” The mayor, the reeve and the chief were meeting Thursday, he said, to have further talks about matters of mutual interest.

Tri-council health – councillor Joy McGregor said an important piece of news coming out of the Family Care Clinic is how statistics are recorded. Apparently, if users of the clinic don’t indicate who their ‘provider’ is (I.e doctor or nurse practitioner), their visit does not get recorded under the name of any particular practitioner. This has the effect of making these doctors and NPs seem less busy than they actually are.

Tourism – this group put on a successful drive-in concert in Slave Lake in August, reported councillor Gramlich. Twenty-seven percent of the tickets (87 vehicles) went to out-of-town people. Putting on the concert qualified the group for a $32,000 grant, which will be used for further promotions of the area, Gramlich said. The annual general meeting for the tourism society will be this fall, added councillor Julie Brandle.

Library – The board is down two public members, reported councillor McGregor – with the loss of Brian Pitcairn and Graham McCullough this year. The Slave Lake library has extended its open hours to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, but is still closed on weekends. It has been doing programs online, but has lately seen a drop in participation. Smith library is back open as well. Flatbush is offering curbside pickup only.

Community Futures – Some workshops are planned, councillor King reported. Details are being finalized. One will be on customer service, another on ‘recovering from COVID.’
“Watch for dates,” King said.

Council on board against gun control
In council’s agenda package was a letter from Craig Copeland, the Mayor of the City of Cold Lake. It seeks support from other municipal councils in urging the federal government to withdraw its amendment to the criminal code banning certain guns, accessories, ammo, etc.
The argument is familiar: the new law will cost far too much money and do little or nothing to reduce crime; rather it will punish law-abiding firearms owners.
Councillor Brice Ferguson was the first to speak up in favour of council supporting the Cold Lake resolution.
“I think this (the federal gun legislation) would be out of line with a majority of our residents,” he said.
Councillors Busk and King expressed agreement. King made a motion for the town to send a letter to that effect. It was carried.

Mayor’s corner
Wrapping up the open portion of the meeting as usual, Warman reported on some of the things he had been seeing, hearing and doing in the mayoral line in the previous week. One thing was hearing from people on the subject of making mask-wearing mandatory in Slave Lake. He didn’t specify whether they were for or against it. He did say council had not discussed such a measure, and would not be doing it until ordered to, or “when we see a dramatic shift (in COVID infections) in our community.”
Warman spoke of a meeting (by telephone) he and M.D. reeve Murray Kerik had with the chief of staff of Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon. The topic was the closure of the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation in the winter months and the dire impact on the community, for an ostensible saving to the province of only $35,000.
“I think the message got across,” he said.

COVID
Warman noted that after a long period of no new cases in Slave Lake, the number had jumped to six over the weekend. He repeated the usual cautions about social distance, hand-sanitizing and quarantining one’s self if symptoms show up. If we all do that, he said, we’ll get those numbers back down where we want them.
Further on the mini-outbreak, Warman said “anxiety levels are higher than I anticipated.”
An example: He was talking to a guy who asked him if he thought he should start stocking up on groceries. Warman advised against going to extremes.

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