Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Oct. 6, 2020 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Employees waiting for test results
CAO David Kim’s meeting-opening update for council included the interesting news that six town employees are off sick and awaiting COVID test results. No further details were provided.

Winterizing
The town’s utilities department has been busy winterizing hydrants, cleaning sewer lines and such. Their operations department counterparts have been spray-patching and pothole patching, among other activities.

Lagoons and reservoir projects should be finished this month
All aeration equipment is in place in the four sewage treatment lagoons. Final landscaping and site restoration work is what remains. The project is expected to be ‘substantially complete’ by the middle of this month.
As for the hilltop water reservoir, that project is also nearing completion, says the written report for council. The expectation is the crew will start re-filling it on Oct. 16. Water will not become available to the town until after bacteria test results come back.

MRC programs
Council heard that the new pickle ball league is ‘sold out’, with 24 registrations (the threat of injury notwithstanding). Under the AHS ‘cohort’ rules, no more participants will be allowed for the time being. Mayor Tyler Warman asked when other people could expect to join in. Tasha Albert, the town’s community relations manager, said the goal is to start a second ‘learn to play’ pickle ball session early in the new year. Those in the first group would then become a proper league.

MRC window
It’s been over 10 months since windows got smashed in the MRC in an ATM theft. The ones in the door (or doors) were replaced this past summer, but the larger panel is still covered by sheets of oriented strandboard. The one-year anniversary of the ATM smash-and-dash comes up on Dec. 4. Mayor Tyler Warman must have been thinking it’s been a long time because he asked when that new window is finally going to be installed.
“Soon,” said Albert.

Extra training for peace officers
Slave Lake peace officers are receiving training in collision reconstruction and impaired driving. These are areas normally left up to the RCMP. What councillor Darin Busk wanted to know was whether it indicated a “downloading” of RCMP responsibility onto the municipality. And if they are going to start handing out tickets for impaired driving, does that mean the town will have to purchase the associated equipment? The answers were not conclusive, but CAO David Kim did say legislation allows municipal officers to deal with such things.
“It’s our choice to do it or not,” he said.

Property to be sold to recoup unpaid taxes
The town has taken ownership of a private lot with a pile of unpaid taxes on it. The lot (street address not provided in the report) went up for tax sale in the approved manner, but no bids were received. The next step in the process is the town to take over the title, which has happened.
Next the town will turn the job of selling the property over to a realtor. A request for proposals was sent out, and only one realtor responded; that was Royal LePage of Slave Lake. Its owner, Julie Brandle, also happens to be a town councillor, so she excused herself from the room when the matter was being discussed and voted on.
In fact there was little discussion. The town is owed $30,000 in taxes and costs (clean-up, storage, etc.). The property’s value has been assessed at $65,000. It includes a lot with a trailer.
Council voted to give the contract to Royal LePage.

Status quo on franchise fees
If electrical and natural gas bills go up next year, it won’t be because the town raised the fees it charges ATCO Gas and Electric. Council voted to leave what are called ‘franchise fees’ the same as last year. That’s the normal practice. There was an increase in 2019, after 15 years of stable rates.
The franchise fees are described as being “for the use and access of (town) land to construct, maintain and operate distribution systems…”
When those fees are raised, the utility company passes them on to its customers.

Mall wants more signs
The owner of the downtown mall in Slave Lake wants to put up a ‘directory’ sign next to the ‘super sign’ that already exists next to its 100 Main St. address. This would require a change to the bylaw, and the application was accordingly before council for first reading of the amended bylaw.
The applicant, Town Centre Properties 2018 Inc., said this in its application: “One super sign is not adequate to provide signage at a shopping centre of this size. Our tenants in the mall require better signage to help their businesses. A business directory sign, placed beside the main mall entrance, will help these tenants.”
Council gave first reading to the bylaw change. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020.

First step for Mat Program rezoning: public hearing on Nov. 3
Council gave first reading to a bylaw change that (if passed) would clear the way for the old Parent Link building (or – even older – Associate Medical Clinic) on 3rd Ave. NE to become an overnight shelter for homeless people in the cold months. The building is owned by the Alberta Social Housing Corporation, which is the applicant for the bylaw change.
A public hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020.

Watershed plan actions for 2021
As a participant in the Lesser Slave Integrated Watershed Management Plan, the town is expected to report annually on “how we are moving the plan forward.” Accordingly, administration had some ideas for council’s consideration, to be implemented in 2021. Five were suggested – two costing money and three not. The three no-cost measures were the ones council approved. One of those had to do with promoting stewardship of OHV trails. Another is to circulate information on invasive species. The third – oddly enough – has to do with implementing restoration measures on three rivers in the County of Big Lakes – areas that the town has nothing to do with. However, apparently there’s a role the town can play in an educational effort.
The two that do cost money are a drainage master plan and a riparian health study of a section of Sawridge Creek. The first is happening anyway, as part of regular town business. No comment was made on the creek study.

FireSmart regulations: the final chapter
“We’ve been kicking this can down the road,” remarked mayor Warman, leading off yet another discussion on proposed FireSmart requirements for new construction in new subdivisions. As reported earlier, a vote on the proposed bylaw change ended in a 3 – 3 deadlock at a council meeting last month. Instead of calling it a defeat, council tabled it until the full seven members were present.
There was no sign any of the original six had changed their views. Councillor Rebecca King – one of the ‘yea’ voters, said people she talked to in the meantime warmed to the idea when they found out the new regs wouldn’t apply to any existing developments.
“The more I explained, the more support it got,” she said.
That didn’t sway any of her colleagues.
“I have not changed my mind,” said councillor Brandle.
The wild card was Shawn Gramlich, who had been absent for the last vote.
“We’re trying to bring developers into Slave Lake,” he said. “We’re going to hinder those developers.”
The motion was defeated in a 4 – 3 vote.
The result is builders in new subdivisions won’t be required to include fire-resistant materials (as one example). The town will encourage such measures, but have no enforcement muscle.

Mayor’s corner: town meets with Friendship Centre on homelessness
Mayor Warman spoke about a meeting with the Friendship Centre to discuss how to work together on the homelessness issue. The town heard “loud and clear,” he said, that the Friendship Centre has a plan in place, which “hinges exclusively on one building in town.” That is the former Parent Link building on 3rd Ave. NE, (see item above in the council notebook) which has been offered by its owner as a location for the Mat Program.
“They are betting on the public not pushing back on their plan,” Warman said.
Warman added that town reps had also met with the RCMP on the same topic (homelessness/vagrancy) and heard that there are “complex needs, requiring “a variety of resources.”
It’s a big debate, Warman continued, “with no easy answers.”
One example he gave was about the idea to remove a ‘homeless tent camp’ located somewhere in town. The police told the town it’s actually helpful to them to know where people are.

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