M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

March 23, 2022 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

New grader approved

The M.D. is buying two graders this year. One is a used model for $360,000, from Ritchie Brothers. The decision to purchase it was made at a meeting in February. With the bids having come in on a brand-new grader, council was asked to make a decision. Council went with the lower of two bids, which was from Brandt Tractor, for $535,600. The Finning unit was offered at $623,000.

“Apples to apples?” asked councillor Brad Pearson, to which the answer was ‘yes.’

The new unit is not expected to be available until September.

Gravel crush awarded

Council approved the low bid on the 2022 gravel crushing and stockpiling contract, which was by Lafarge Canada, for $321,000. The next lowest was $54,000 higher.

The work is to be done at the M.D.’s Moose Portage pit. Presenting the report to council, Shari Spencer said hauling gravel from another pit to service the Smith area would cost the M.D. an additional $126,000.

The contract with Lafarge is expected to provide enough gravel for three years. It is to consist of 40,000 tonnes of ¾ inch crush and 10,000 tonnes of two-inch.

Re-zoning application in the Mitsue area

Council gave the required first reading to a bylaw change requested by the owner (or owners) of a piece of land in the Mitsue area. The report in council’s package was slim on details, except that the proposal is to change from agricultural to light industrial district. A public hearing is scheduled for April 13, at 10:15 a.m. The piece of land appears to be a quarter section, on the west side of Eating Creek Way.

Lot size policy not needed

Council took care of a couple of ‘housekeeping’ items that were left over after the M.D.’s new Land-Use Bylaw (LUB) was enacted last year. Part of that process involved the rescinding of various area structure plans, because they were no longer needed. But a couple of policies arising out of the now-defunct Southshore Area Structure Plan needed to be officially scrapped, so those were on the agenda, requiring motions.

One had to do with minimum lot size exemptions. It’s no longer needed, council heard, because lot size issues are dealt with by other means in the LUB. Asking for clarification, councillor Brad Pearson got the following: The new LUB does not specify minimum lot sizes in Southshore hamlets per se, but stipulates setbacks and how much of a lot can be covered with hard surfaces. That is supposed to take care of it.

“You have to have a building pocket,” is how director of planning and development Ann Holden put it.

The other policy no longer serving any useful purpose is one dealing with subdivision time extensions. Council duly rescinded both.

Open spaces amendments

Council had a slightly amended version of the M.D.’s Open Spaces Regulation Bylaw to consider. This is the document that lists some things the public is and isn’t allowed to do on open spaces owned by the M.D. and sets penalties for violations thereof.

The reason for the amendments is that admin. was advised to run anything involving fines past the lawyers. The revised version of the bylaw was a result of that legal review.

One thing advised by the legal folks was a clarification of the term ‘prohibited area.’ Russ Jassman, presenting the report, told council admin. decided it was easier to define what a prohibited area is not. Paraphrased as follows: If a vehicle (of whatever kind), or object is left in an open space other than a campsite or parking area, for longer than it is authorized to be, the M.D. can remove it.

Also mentioned in the report were amended penalties for three offences involving animals. Fines will now be $100 for having an unleashed pet in an open space, failing to remove excrement from an open space and bringing or allowing an animal into a beach or swimming area.

These rules only apply to M.D. property – not on anything controlled by the province.

Jassman gave as an example of a place where more control is needed a strip of municipal reserve land along the lake at the Fawcett Lake Resort. People are constantly buzzing back and forth there on machines, “annoying the neighbours,” and so on, he said. The Open Spaces Bylaw is to help the M.D. “put a stop to that.”

Signs should help, offered councillor Darren Fulmore. Agreed, said councillor Brad Pearson. They do at Canyon Creek.

“We’ve done that (at Fawcett Lake),” said acting CAO Barry Kolenosky. “They keep driving over the signs, and pull out road blocks. We’ll keep doing that, but at some point we have to pull out a bylaw.”

Council gave all three readings to the bylaw change, bringing it into immediate effect.

Meetings with ministers

Councillors reported on recent meetings with various government ministers.

Transportation – For reasons he didn’t explain, reeve Murray Kerik was surprised (and pleased, he said) to find how knowledgeable Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney was.

One thing they talked about was the replacement of the bridge over the Athabasca at Smith. The M.D.’s pitch on the need for a new bridge included info about the brisk pace of oilfield development in the Marten Hills, and how industry might benefit from a new span. Not to mention how much the province benefits from that industrial activity. The minister seemed keen to set up a meeting with industry and the M.D. to talk about the bridge project, whose replacement cost (the M.D. has just learned) is estimated at $60 million.

Not as welcome was the news the department has pushed off the replacement of the bridge to 2036.
“It’s been moved about four times,” said Kerik. “It’s not good.”

Municipal Affairs – One thing councillors talked about with Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver was Marten Beach flood mitigation. They told him the results of the latest study are due in a month or two and they look forward to working with the department on a solution. They got no commitment from the minister, “but interest,” said Kerik.

Seniors and Housing – Minister Josephine Pon and a deputy minister got their ears bent by councillors on the new directive from the province demanding greater competency on housing boards. The reason appears to be that the government plans to download more responsibility for housing onto local or regional boards. They also want municipalities to be more involved.

Housing boards have been given a year to get up to a level of competency prescribed by the province. Pearson said he told them that isn’t realistic.

“They’re going to work with us,” he said.

Road bans in place

Road bans are in place as of today, acting CAO Barry Kolenosky informed council, when it had reconvened as a ‘committee of the whole’ later that same day. However, the M.D. was talking to the mills about allowing hauling to continue for a few days, if and when it’s cold enough.

“They have to run on the frost,” Kolenosky said.

A few types of loads are exempt from M.D. road bans. These include drinking water, heating fuel, mail and milk.

Somebody asked about grain.

“Shouldn’t be too bad this year,” said reeve Kerik. “Most of our bins are empty. They’ve been hauling pretty hard.”

Active pits

Council heard that 2021 was a busy year for gravel pits in the M.D. Busier than ever in fact, with private companies hauling lots of loads out, much of it apparently for use in building oil lease sites. The M.D. charges a price per tonne, but relies on the companies to report what they’ve taken.

“It’s very much on the honour system,” said transportation coordinator Shari Spencer.

Reeve Kerik noted that the province also takes a cut, and he assumes it is “on them like a dirty shirt.”

The money the M.D. collects from gravel is supposed to go towards maintaining the roads affected by the gravel haul. It can also be used for gravel exploration and development of new pits, Spencer said.

Southshore dumping station

The sewer and grey water dumping station at the Canyon Creek harbour is inadequate, council heard. A new, better one needs to be installed. The question is where. Several sites were suggested, including near the Canyon Creek arena or at the Widewater Complex. What council settled on was a spot across from the hotel in Canyon Creek. The existing one will stay in service for this season.

“It’s going to cost us a bit, but let’s do it right and do it once,” said reeve Kerik.

The project will be brought to a budget meeting for final approval.

What to do about the waterfront

Having rescinded all its own area structure plans, the M.D. would like to get rid of the one dealing with the land in and around Old Town Slave Lake. But it’s an inter-municipal plan, and that means consulting with the Town of Slave Lake. The topic was up for discussion to find out what councillors think about it. The recommendation was to accept the report as information, and have admin. hash out a plan with their TOSL counterparts. Then a recommendation would come back, either to scrap it altogether or amend it. Like the other M.D. ASPs, much of it is not needed because it already exists in the new Land-Use Bylaw.

During the discussion, the fact the M.D. owns land by the river came up. What should the M.D. be doing with it? Set it up as a campground?

“That puts us back in the camping business,” said councillor Sandra Melzer. “I don’t think we want to.”

“Sell it!” was Brad Pearson’s suggestion.

Stay tuned….

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