Nov. 10, 2020 meeting
Council’s meeting began with a statement by councillor Joy McGregor, regarding comments on Slave Lake’s homeless population she had made at a meeting in September.
“My statements were unacceptable,” she said, adding that she looks forward to “seeking a higher level of understanding.”
Mayor Tyler Warman followed with a statement of his own, acknowledging his and the rest of council’s responsibility.
“We are part of that problem,” he said. “I am. She does not deserve to wear the shame on her own.”
Warman also spoke of his efforts over the preceding couple of days to reach out to First Nations leaders in the area.
“We look forward to working with neighbouring communities,” he said.
People still in need
Tina Marie Ritter appeared before council to share her views on the continuing need for a homeless shelter. One week earlier she had been one of the proponents for re-zoning of the building on 3rd Ave. NE at a public hearing. Council voted against the re-zoning, which effectively killed that location for the Mat Program.
“I took it as a setback,” she said. “We still have people in need.”
Ritter went on to urge the town to “work together” with others to come up with a homeless shelter solution. She suggested a public forum on the topic might be a good idea, saying “we need to get past the anger. It’s hurting us.”
Councillor Julie Brandle asked if the town had any plans to apply for a ‘Rapid Housing Initiative’ grant. This is a recently-announced federal program intended to stimulate the building of affordable housing. The answer; no we haven’t and won’t be. Apparently the Regional Housing Authority is planning to apply for a grant, perhaps to supplement the money already allocated to the much-delayed affordable housing project for Slave Lake.
Public skating at the MRC on Sundays is so popular the town is adding a public skating slot on Saturdays. The Sunday slot is fully booked to December.
Participants are required to sign up for it these days, council heard. And the number of people allowed on the ice at one time is limited.
What to do with unspent FCSS cash
The town’s Family and Community Support Services budget is usually pretty much used up by this time of year. But 2020 has been a big fat anomaly and there will be an estimated $82,000 unspent. According to the rules imposed by the province, only five per cent of the provincial contribution ($182,000) is allowed to be carried over to the next year’s budget. In other words, spend it or return it.
But FCSS grant money can’t be spent just anywhere. The rules are quite strict, council heard. Even areas that qualify (social program type of stuff) can’t receive FCSS funding if they already get government funding of other types. That rules out the Mat Program homeless shelter, for example, council heard.
Proposed was a community social needs assessment. A consultant would do the work, for a cost of $20,000 to $30,000.
Further proposed for council’s consideration was a last-ditch effort to encourage community groups to apply for FCSS grants. Typically, these grants are over-subscribed, but because of COVID, the applications dropped way off.
Council approved both actions.
Funds for lake testing
Reporting on the recent activity of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council, councillor Rebecca King said the group would like to institute a regular program of water quality testing in Lesser Slave Lake. It takes money, which the council is hoping to raise via municipal contributions. The amount needed is $10,000.
Airport Commission: erosion an issue
King said erosion of airport lands by high lake water has been an issue in 2020. Over six feet was lost. Had the commission installed the perimeter fence, it would have been in the lake.
“We’re trying to come up with a plan,” she said.
In other airport news, councillor Shawn Gramlich said the new sweeper is a big hit. According to the airport manager, it cuts the time required to sweep the airport in half.
Regional Housing Authority: fish or cut bait
Councillor Brandle’s report included the happy news that the authority would not be requesting an increase in the municipal contributions to the budget in the coming year.
Other news: Lindsay Pratt has been retained as CAO for another year; a dozen or so rooms are vacant in the lodge. The plan is to promote them, by way of ‘virtual tours.’
Brandle also reported that the board is pushing the provincial government to fish or cut bait (our term not hers) on the affordable housing project. The suggestion, conveyed to the minister in a letter by way of MLA Pat Rehn, is to either increase the budget so the project as proposed can go ahead, or “build what they can for the money we have and allow us to do some lease-to-purchase to gain some more funding for it.”
Tri-Council health committee: more docs and babies
Councillor McGregor said a ninth physician will be starting soon at the Family Care Clinic, bringing the team there to full complement. The number of nurse practitioners is also getting back up to where it should be.
Other good news: 16 babies were delivered at the SL Health Care Centre in September.
Bus companies seek support
Council had letters from one or more passenger bus companies having a hard time due to the COVID pandemic. They are seeking financial relief to keep from going under and would like support from municipalities. Council accordingly voted in favour of a motion to send a letter of support.
Warman finished off the open portion of the meeting by congratulating absent council member Brice Ferguson and his wife for “a new addition to the family.”
He then moved on to the still-looming issue of charges of racism against council. He acknowledged (again) that “what we say matters. It carries weight.” The question before council now, he said, is “where do we go from here?” Warman said he thinks there is “a strong foundation,” and “always an opportunity to get better. We want to work together.”