June 18, 2019 meeting
New on the job
Council’s June 18 meeting began with the introduction of the town’s newest employee. She’s Taylor Tonsi, who will serve as program coordinator in the department of community services. Making the introduction to council was CAO Brian Vance, who said Tonsi had actually worked in a similar position a few years ago.
“It’s good to have her back,” he said.
Hosting again, but briefly
The evacuation of Widewater and Canyon Creek last week once again thrust Slave Lake into the role of reception community for evacuees. There’s a fair amount of work involved in that, with setting up a registration centre being only the most obvious.
Vance said around 300 people were registered.
“I have to say we’re getting good at it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the work of reconciling the costs arising from hosting last month’s influx of evacuees from High Level continues and is “a huge task,” Vance said. Getting provincial disaster relief funding to cover those costs is the goal, and there’s no getting around the paperwork.
Down to a trickle on water meters
Another headache for the town has to do with how hard it is to complete the changeover to new water meters on all residences. Vance said the number yet to be done is down to 145, but “bookings have slowed to a trickle.”
Perhaps the $300 added to the bills of these holdouts will stir them into action. If they have their meter changed in June, the $300 will be removed. Later than that, it won’t, because the town has to pay the supplier that amount, per meter.
“We will also be reverting to the 24 m3 (cubic metres) minimum charge for those people who don’t have a meter,” says Vance in his written report, “which was our standard prior to all the meter problems.”
As to the reason some people seem to be dragging their feet on getting their meters changed for free, Vance said, “I’m not sure why somebody would rather spend $300. We have to work through that.”
‘Looks like a dump’
Councillor Joy McGregor asked about the old downtown Forestry building; specifically, who is responsible for looking after the property, because, “it looks like a dump.”
Councillor Julie Brandle said it had been turned over to the Housing Authority a year or so ago, but she didn’t know who was supposed to be mowing the grass.
Lights at 88 & 2?
A project to install traffic lights at the intersection of Hwys. 88 and 2 is “designed and ready for tender,” said Vance.
However, the new provincial government appears to be in a holding pattern when it comes to moving ahead on projects approved by the previous government.
“It would be an excellent opportunity to check with the local MLA,” Vance suggested.
New bylaw on signs
Council gave first reading to a revamped section of the Land-Use Bylaw dealing with sign regulations. This has been quite some time in coming; it has involved quite a lot of input from local businesses, some of whom were represented on a committee which made recommendations to the town.
One reason for the review was a push from the business community, some of whose members felt the sign regs were unnecessarily restrictive.
The proposed amendments deal with what sort of signs can be set up, where and (in some cases) for how long. The latter item deals with ‘portable temporary signs,’ and councillor Brice Ferguson had something to say about that.
Noting that the proposal was that such signs could be set up for periods of 60 days, twice per year, Ferguson said it was hardly worth it for a business to make the investment. Couldn’t it be for longer? Administration pointed out that if a business wants such a sign to be up all the time, it isn’t temporary and they should consider a permanent sign of another type. However, council approved two 120-day periods (per year) for the portable temporary signs.
Mayor Warman, summing up, expressed his approval with the new regs as amended.
“I think the provisions we have built in protect the town and its citizens, but also increase flexibility,” he said.
A public hearing on the proposed bylaw is scheduled for July 9.
Crosswalk at 88 & Caribou
Putting in a crosswalk over Hwy. 88 between the two sets of baseball diamonds at Caribou Trail is something council would like to see happen. The word from Alberta Transportation is they would only consider it if “it goes somewhere.” In other words, a crosswalk from a trail (or sidewalk) on one side, to no trail or sidewalk on the other side of the highway isn’t going to fly.
“They won’t do anything until we build a trail there,” said Warman.
Building a trail on the east side of the highway over to Charity Park is not in the budget. But council asked admin. to bring back a plan with costs on such a development.
Following up from recent discussions with industrial area operators on policing coverage, mayor Warman introduced the idea of changing how town peace officers do their jobs.
Typically the bylaw enforcement people don’t work at night. Could this change? Is it an option? Would it cost money? Warman asked admin. to check into those things. At the same time, he asked if the cost of hiring a security firm to monitor the industrial area through the night (when most of the thefts are happening) could be determined.
Council was making no recommendations, much less demands.
“Let’s take an in-depth at the possibilities,” Warman said.
5th Ave. NW
Councillor Julie Brandle had a question about the paving on 5th Ave. NW. Given that the town has decided not to wait for the Housing Authority to get its new building up and tied in to underground services, when will the paving be completed? Project manager Doug Baird had the answer.
“They’re (the contractor) going to mobilize in the first week of July,” he said.
Warman plugged the town’s communications efforts via social media as making a difference. He was specific in one example and vague in another.
The specific one had to do with the evacuations of South Shore residents due to a wildfire south of Widewater. Anxiety levels were high, Warman said, but the messages “were getting out there,” and helped.
Warman also referred – obliquely – to his social media response on gasoline prices, which he said “might have made a difference.”
Councillor McGregor had some news about confusion over street addresses in the M.D. Working at the evacuation centre, she said M.D. residents registering sometimes didn’t know their street number.
“I felt sorry for them,” she said. “It was embarrassing.”
Some people could remember their old address, but not the new one.
Further complicating things during the brief evacuation of Widewater and Canyon was the collapse of Internet and cell phone service. Vance said he tried, but couldn’t get through.
“If that had been in town,” he said, “it would have been 2011 all over again.”
He was referring to the wildfire disaster of May of that year, when communications (and other) systems quit working just when they were needed the most.
Councillor Darin Busk suggested the town hold an appreciation event – probably a barbecue – for all the folks who have been working so hard to put out fires and protect communities.
“Good idea,” said Warman.
“Wait until fall when fire season is done,” suggested McGregor.
Council ended its meeting by brainstorming about what items ought to be included in the town’s 10-year capital plan. The press was not present for the discussion, but mayor Warman provided the following in a follow-up email:
“We have added new items for consideration. Our next step is to evaluate each project based on several different criteria. Once that is complete, likely early July, we will have a prioritized list we will then build into our 10-year plan to be approved likely this fall.”
Mayor Warman was in favour of scheduling a strat. planning session for council and management for some time in the next few months. Councillor McGregor was not. Referring to a list of priorities identified in last year’s strategic plan, she said, “We haven’t met much of what we set last year. I think we should finish off more of those before we make any new ones.”
“I think we should,” said Warman, and asked for it to be put on the agenda for a council meeting in July.