Dec. 11, 2018 meeting
Councillor Darin Busk raised the matter of slippery places in town and encouraged town staff to be vigilant. He singled out the MRC as deserving special attention.
“We don’t need anybody slipping and falling and hurting themselves,” he said.
Calvin Couturier, the public works manager, responded, saying he has sanding trucks out most days from eight to five, and often one out earlier to hit certain identified spots.
New direction in advertising
The town is looking at different ways to get its message across. The goal appears to be to save money. Council discussed various alternatives, which included the production of its own newsletter, and of course reliance on website and social media.
Municipalities have long been legally required to publish certain notices in the local paper. That appears no longer to be the case. However, the Municipal Government Act says they must use whatever method reaches “substantially all residents.”
The question before council was what method that might be, or combination of methods. Advertising in the newspaper and on radio costs the town several tens of thousands of dollars per year. Commenting on the matter, mayor Tyler Warman called the effort to pare down the 2019 budget “excruciating.”
“There is a substantial cost to reaching out to people,” he continued. “I am nervous about moving away from this (traditional methods of advertising), but I think it’s something we should consider.”
Council gave first reading to the Advertising Bylaw, which calls for the town to proceed with non-traditional advertising methods. It comes up for public hearing on Jan. 8.
MRC and pool hours
Another item coming out of budget deliberations was whether cutting hours at the rec centre or pool to save money would be workable. Community Services Director Garry Roth had a report on the matter. It showed that the number of people using the MRC between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. is small. Some cutback of hours there might work.
Another factor: figures in the report showed steady decline in MRC use (mainly field house) over the past three years.
“I don’t see the numbers to justify opening at six in the morning,” said Busk.
Another suggestion is to open the pool at 9:00 a.m. two days a week. The estimated cost-saving would be $10,000 a year.
Attendance at the pool has been pretty steady, council heard.
Council made no decision, accepting the report as information. A subsequent motion by Warman called for a recommendation for service level changes at the MRC and the pool.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a cost-saving measure,” Warman said. “Or a reduction in hours. I want it to make things better.”
Warman also said, “Let’s throw something out to the public to see what they think.”
Council is also looking at cost-savings in the FCSS area. This is Family & Community Support Services, which funds various programs, Parent Link, seniors’ support and more. The provincial government provides around $182,000 and the town has to pitch in 20 per cent of that at a minimum. In fact it has been contributing about 38 per cent. The proposal is to cut it down to a 23 per cent figure, by cutting some programs.
So what to cut? Councillor McGregor said she would have a hard time supporting a reduction in support for seniors. Same with the Roots of Empathy program, presented in schools. Support for the annual volunteer appreciation banquet she said she could see letting go.
Councillor Busk said if there are programs that aren’t working anymore, “let’s get rid of them.”
Councillor Brandle suggested that the community clean-up event in the spring could maybe do without all the t-shirts.
McGregor suggested a $35,000 fund for supporting community groups could be cut down by $10,000.
Council made no decision on the matter, but will have to fairly soon (probably this week).
Bulk water sales
It turns out the rates the town charges for bulk water and bulk sewage disposal are far lower than most other municipalities. It’s been a long time since they were reviewed, and the world has moved on.
The town charges $2.18 per cubic metre for bulk water; the next lowest among the eight other municipalities surveyed is the M.D. of Lesser Slave River, at approximately $3.25 m3. Big Lakes County is $4.85 and they go up from there.
An increase “is long overdue,” said councillor Busk, and proposed it be raised to $5.00 per m3.
Warman didn’t disagree with the number, but with the process. Doing it in increments over two or three years would be better, he said. However, Busk’s motion passed by a 4 – 2 vote, with Warman and McGregor opposed.
The recommendation was to leave the bulk sewage rate the same.
Municipal Planning Commission – Councillor King reported a few approvals. Two or three were for home-based businesses; one was for a new pharmacy, to be located between Mary Brown’s and the Subway.
Airport Commission – Councillor Busk’s news on this was that a perimeter fencing job may be moved up a year or two, to be done in 2019.
Protective Services – Vehicles are being stolen, reported councillor McGregor. Don’t leave your keys or valuables in your vehicle. Mandatory alcohol screening is coming, as of Dec. 18 – meaning whatever you get pulled over for, you’ll be asked to do a breath test.
“So far not one complaint for illegal cannabis,” said McGregor, “after all the hullaballoo.”