M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

April 13, 2022 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

More muscle in P&D

Council appointed a junior planning and development officer for the M.D., named Sandra Rendle. She’s already an employee. The rationale, as explained by director of rural services Russ Jassman, was partly to allow better access to planning and development services for residents in the southern parts of the M.D. (She’ll be based at the Flatbush office). Also to cover for the senior P&D officer when she’s away.

Assessment review board appointments

The M.D. contracts out its assessment review work to the Capital Region Assessment Services Commission. This is seen as a better way of meeting its obligations under the Municipal Government Act, due to the difficulty in recruiting and training its own board.

As such, council must make formal appointments. Accordingly, three motions were made and passed, appointing the board members, the chair and the clerk. Board members are Darlene Chartrand, Tina Groszko, Stewart Hennig, Richard Knowles and Raymond Ralph. The chair is Ralph. The clerk is Gerryl Amorin.

Second reading for zoning change

After a public hearing produced no comments either for or against a zoning change to a property in the Smith area, council gave second reading to the required bylaw change. Third and final reading will have to wait. This is a somewhat new strategy, recommended by administration. The idea is that the final touches on the re-zoning will wait until the proposed development actually happens. If it doesn’t, the M.D. won’t have to go through the process of re-zoning it back to where it was.

The land is has an ‘agricultural’ designation. The owners wish to change a small piece of a quarter section to ‘residential.’

“We’re not obligated to build a road?” asked councillor Brad Pearson.

No, said development officer Ann Holden. Not only that, the Land-Use Bylaw stipulates such developments can only be done on existing roads.

Swampy situation in Mitsue

Another re-zoning application caused council considerably more concern. This is for a quarter section in the Mitsue area. The owners want to change the zoning from agricultural to light industrial, to accommodate uses they have in mind. But the land is in the dreaded flood plain of Eating Creek and council is very wary of approving something that might come back to haunt them.

At the public hearing on the proposed bylaw change, nobody spoke, but one letter from a nearby resident was read out by the reeve. The writer expressed strong opposition to any development on the quarter section, saying that in flood events, “more water will be backed up,” and that it would “add to flooding and change the flood pattern.”

However, councillor Norm Seatter (‘Zooming’ in from a remote location), pointed out that part of the quarter was higher than the rest, and should be able to accommodate some development without affecting flood patterns.

Councillor Brad Pearson agreed, and asked if a smaller portion of the property could be considered for re-zoning, rather than the whole thing.

Seatter said the bigger concern, from his point of view, is access. There’s only one way in and out, and in the last big flood, it was under two feet of water. The ideal solution would be to develop road access (much shorter) to and from Poplar Lane along the infamous ‘goat trail,’ that the M.D. doesn’t own and has rejected notions of repairing and maintaining in years past.

Council went over a number of possibilities with regard to the re-zoning idea. The sentiment was generally that they don’t want to impede the business ambitions of the owners, but also want to avoid creating future problems by opening a door to unsuitable developments in a flood-prone area.

What they decided was to not proceed until they get some advice from a planning professional.

“There’s got to be a way to make this work,” said reeve Kerik.

One for two deal on vehicles

The M.D. has a Chevrolet Tahoe it isn’t happy with. It’s four years old and has only 31,000 kilometres on it. Whatever the thinking at the time was, the thing amounts to a conspicuous case of overkill, and M.D. administration would like to trade it in for two smaller, cheaper-to-operate vehicles.

Surprisingly, Whitecap Chev, Buick, GMC has offered a $50,000 trade-in amount to the M.D., on the condition they buy a couple of 2022 Terrain SLE all-wheel drive units. That was the recommendation before council.

Contrary to the news about supply delays for new vehicles, the M.D. was told the new Terrains could be available “as early as next week.” With the trade-in, the M.D. will end up owing $16,600.

Council approved the deal as recommended

Canyon Creek water intake

The first of four recommended upgrades to M.D. water infrastructure was to the water intake at Canyon Creek. Deficiencies were noted as early as 2011, council heard, but the matter was “put on a shelf.”

What’s needed is the replacement of the screen on the water intake in the lake. Slots in the screen are larger than permitted. One effect of this, council heard, is that small fish end up in the reservoir, where they become bigger fish.

The project requires divers, and is estimated at $40,000.

Council also learned that although there are two lines from the pump house to the reservoir, one of them is in such bad shape it doesn’t offer much in the way of reliable redundancy. ‘Swiss cheese’ was how it was described.

Canyon pump chamber and valve repair to get an upgrade

Repairs in the raw water pump chamber are overdue. This includes replacement of isolation valves, which are no longer functioning. Temporary pumping from the lake may be necessary during the work.

The proposed budget is $455,000. This may seem steep, says the written report, but uncertainty about the condition of the valves is factored in, as are the complications that come with regulatory requirements when working by a water body – not to mention those posed by abundant groundwater.

Councillor Sandra Melzer made the motion to proceed as recommended.

“To me, this is stuff that has got to be done,” she said.

Smith raw water intake

Project #3 for council’s consideration is a repair to the two raw water intake screens in the Athabasca River. One has been damaged – probably by ice or some other large debris; the other intake line has a kink in it and needs some investigation.

Both of these defects were discovered the last time the M.D. hired a diver to take a look, which was in 2011. To provide council with a bit more incentive, the report advised that if the intakes fail, the cost of emergency pumping can run to $10,000 per day.

Council approved the recommended repairs, at an estimated cost of $85,000.

Smith pump chamber and pipe replacement moving ahead

The pump chamber for the Smith water plant intake was damaged in a high-water event in 2020 during spring break-up. The chamber was filled with sediment. Pipes are corroded and need replacing.

What’s proposed is to relocate the pump chamber to higher ground, although this will depend on a review by engineers.

The total ‘worst-case’ scenario budget is around $600,000. But council was being asked to approve $75,000 for engineering in 2022, which it did.

Motion on Marten Beach

After a discussion that took place in camera, council passed a Norm Seatter motion to send a letter to the provincial government requesting funding for Marten Beach flood mitigation. The amount estimated is $13 million to $20 million.

Super mailboxes for hamlets: M.D. to find out what it would take

Councillor Pearson raised this topic. What would it take to get super mailboxes for Poplar Lane, Marten Beach and Bayer Road? He said he had spoken to the local post office and was told there’s no reason why those communities can’t have the boxes. But the decision would have to come from higher up in the Canada Post chain of command.

Pearson made a motion to have the M.D. send a letter on the subject.

Councillor Melzer said her only concern would be that a small post office might cease to exist if everyone switches to super mailboxes. That’s why we don’t want them in Flatbush, she said.

No worries, said Pearson, “Slave Lake will never lose its post office.”

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