M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

March 30, 2022 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

That rumbling sound….

Sheila Willis of History Check and Krista Malden of Community Now magazine presented to council on the Rumble Alberta event, inviting the M.D.’s participation as a sponsor.

Participants in Rumble Alberta tour the province, picking up points for visiting and taking selfies at designated points of interest and answering trivia questions, enjoy discounts from participating businesses and maybe winning prizes. Willis said it costs $25 per season to participate. As for how much a municipal sponsor might contribute, that depends on what it wants to achieve, she said.

So for example, said councillor Brad Pearson, say I take a selfie at Char’s (Railway Café, in Smith). What’s that do for me?

You earn points, said Willis. There’s a leaderboard. (All this online, of course)

What do I win, Pearson asked.

That depends what the organizers collect from communities (I.e. municipalities like Lesser Slave River) and (other) sponsors, Willis said.

So, said reeve Murray Kerik, summing up. We decide what our vision is, and budget to fit the vision and get back to you. Yes please, said Willis.

Willis provided statistics from the second Rumble Alberta, in 2021, based on views and downloads of Rumble Alberta route maps. For example, the route from Nisku to Slave Lake had 2,762 views and downloads. How many people might have actually got out on the road and participated that way….no statistics were presented.

Planning and development fees

Council got a report on proposed new fees for items in the area of planning and development. No decisions were made, but councillors had plenty to say and plenty of questions.

The reason it came up is the fees were set several years ago and were considered due for review.

The report proposed increases in most fees. It also showed comparisons to several nearby rural municipalities. Lesser Slave River is “on the lower end” of the scale.

The discussion – not surprisingly – ranged pretty far away from the topic of fees. One example of that was when it came to light a development permit is needed for erecting a sign.

“I would never think I’d need a permit to put a sign up,” said councillor Sandra Melzer. “Somebody is enforcing this?”

There are a lot of contraventions, said Pearson.

Council accepted the report as information. The amended policy, reflecting council’s input, will come back for final approval at a later date.

Utility rates

Council went through a similar process on utility rates. Several changes were proposed, generally in an upward direction. It moves the M.D. a bit closer to cost recovery, but in most cases still nowhere close. An example is the $3.50 fee per cubic metre of potable water proposed. Councillor Darren Fulmore asked how much it costs the M.D. to produce a cube of water. The director didn’t know exactly, but estimated it was around $15.

An associated bylaw change will be that utility accounts won’t be allowed to be in a tenant’s name any more. They can only be in the name of the property owner; then unpaid utility bills can be added to property taxes.

Council accepted the report as information.

Sewer and water: update from the engineer

Jeff Fetter of Associated Engineering brought council up to date on a few looming issues in the field of sewage and water services. It began at Nine Mile Point, moved on to Smith and then back to the Southshore.

On the Nine Mile Point sewage system question, Fetter said Associated had looked at several ways it might be improved. All had their difficulties and drawbacks and his conclusion was that the feasibility of a gravity system warrants more investigation. This would include test installations of “reduced-depth pump stations, with freezing provisions.”

The Smith water treatment plant is in need of upgrades. Three options were presented, ranging in cost from $1.6 million to $2.5 million. All would require an expansion of the building, Fetter added.

Lastly, how to deal with the build-up of ‘bio-solids,’ at the sewage treatment facility in Canyon Creek. A temporary drying cell has been in use for a few years now. Three options for something permanent were presented. They range in cost from $1.4 million to $1.7 million. The recommended option is something called a ‘screw press,’ which would squeeze the water out of the wastewater sludge, resulting in something that could then be transported to the landfill. The other options were to slam the stuff into geo-tubes, or to build a permanent drying pond.

“I think this is something we have to do,” said councillor Sandra Melzer. “Whatever it takes.”

Council will make a decision on it at a later date.

Speaking up for northern tourism

Sheila Willis also asked council to consider appointing her as an M.D. representative at the Alberta Tourism Congress later this month in Banff. She told council northern Alberta gets five per cent of Travel Alberta funding.

“It really annoys me that this region gets ignored,” she said.

Updating the fleet

The M.D. hasn’t been keeping up with the task of upgrading its fleet of vehicles. Council heard this is because of “a multitude of factors.” The proposal for council’s consideration was a new policy on fleet management, to formalize what has been more or less M.D. practice for some time.

The report said 23 pickup trucks are due for replacement in 2022, along with a smaller number of bigger vehicles. Replacing all these in one year would be difficult to impossible, and not just because of the money.

“A long-term strategy needs to be developed,” says the written report.

Council’s discussion included commentary on various speculative situations, for example where strict adherence to policy might not be the best way to go. An example: a 2011 M.D. truck with less than 120,000 kms. on it is still working well.

“I think we should just keep using it,” said transportation coordinator Shari Spencer, who made the report. On the other hand, a 2016 unit is causing lots of problems.

“That’s where discretion comes into it,” observed councillor Pearson.

Council passed a motion to direct administration to develop a fleet policy.

Smith arena

The M.D. is teaming up with SHARA to bring reality to a vision for a proper outdoor skating/hockey rink at Smith. Council got an update on the terms of reference (TOR) for the Smith Ice Surface Fundraising Committee, recently developed by a consultant.

Presenting the report, interim CAO Barry Kolenosky told council the “all-in” cost of the project he estimates at $450,000. Community fundraising is seen as covering a big chunk of that. Progress has already been made. He said a new set of boards would cost $160,000, but SHARA had already acquired a used set for $60,000. It also had some pledges of donations of other materials and labour.

As for the fundraising, he said, “if we don’t reach our targets, this project will probably be sitting on the shelf for a while.”

Councillor Pearson pushed hard for a Phase I scope to be developed, so both council and the community group know exactly what’s what. Kolenosky said first comes some drilling to find out the state of the ground.

Councillor Norm Seatter offered to sit on the committee.

“I don’t want to throw any cold water on this,” he said. “The community needs to know we’re behind them.”

Councillor Darren Fulmore said the last time he was on council, the M.D. put over $300,000 into the arena at Canyon Creek. Supporting this project he said, “I don’t think is too much to ask.”
Council gave its blessing to the TOR.

The goal is to turn this into a proper ice rink, with boards and lighting.

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