June 8, 2022 meeting
Surprise new face on staff
Council’s meeting began with the introduction of John McDermott, who for the next year will serve as the M.D.’s ‘manager of special projects.’
McDermott is the deputy fire chief for the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Fire Service. His move to M.D. administration was referred to as a ‘secondment,’ which suggests it is temporary. On the other hand, acting CAO Barry Kolenosky characterized McDermott’s role with the M.D. as “learning the ropes,” suggesting it might be more than something temporary.
New utility fees
Council approved a new slate of fees for utility (I.e. water and sewer) services. According to the manager, Donna Cross, it was overdue and needed to bring revenue closer in line with expenses; also to reflect the value of the services actually being provided. She mentioned that the utilities department had been doing a lot of work for no charge and the new bylaw addresses that.
Not everything is up, Cross said. One thing that is, sharply, is the fee for getting connected to an M.D. water main. It goes from $500 to $1,500. Cross said in researching the fee, she found other municipalities were “substantially higher.”
Councillor Norm Seatter agreed, calling the $1,500 “cheap,” by comparison.
Cross singled out Marten Beach for comment, with regard to water supply. The fee per cubic metre will be going up slightly, but still comes nowhere near the cost of providing the service, she said. She also said the facility there is inefficient, and some upgrades are planned.
First reading to land-use amendment
The owners of a quarter section of land east of Old Town Slave Lake would like to subdivide it and have applied to do so. Council did not hear any report on the pros and cons, or discuss the matter at all. They simply gave it first reading and set the required public hearing date for July 13, 2022.
The owners want to separate the five acres that contain a house, yard and outbuildings from the rest.
Mill seeking to buy land, get it re-zoned
Vanderwell Contractors is seeking to buy a piece of Crown land near its Mitsue sawmill, and needs M.D. approval for the zoning change that would ensue.
Same as the above item, council gave the bylaw change first reading and set the public hearing date for July 13. But this time there was a question.
“Can we re-zone Crown land?” asked reeve Kerik. “If we can, no problem!”
In the application, the company says it already uses the land for storage under a Crown disposition. Part of the reason for wanting to buy it has to do with the “potential future development of a facility by Expander Energy, next to the mill.”
That project has been slower getting started than Expander had initially forecast, but just last week the company issued another news release about its process of producing clean diesel from wood waste and re-stating its intention to build its plant by the Vanderwell mill.
Request for follow-up on beautification loans
A program of loans to spark the sprucing up of storefronts did not gain much traction with the M.D. Proposed at an earlier meeting by Community Futures – Lesser Slave Lake (CF) – the scheme was for CF to loan the money, and for municipalities to cover the interest payments, thus making the program more attractive to businesses.
“I don’t think we had a whole lot of interest in it,” said reeve Kerik. “Storefronts – what do we have, three in the whole M.D.?”
Council voted down a Sandra Melzer motion to participate in the program.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference and trade show – Councillor Pearson attended this event in Regina in early June. He said it was “dominated by city issues,” but was nonetheless interesting to him to find all sorts of people who are facing similar challenges in municipal government. Another thing Pearson found interesting was the idea of having federal grants go directly to municipalities, instead of through the province. There’s a push on to lobby for that, he said.
Tourism – Councillor Lana Spencer reported that the All-In Slave Lake event (coming in late August) is shaping up, with many fun activities planned, including a fireworks show. She also informed her colleagues a multi-cultural group is being organized in Slave Lake, with a kick-off event on July 5.
Watershed Council – Councillor Seatter said there’s lots of educational stuff going on, among other projects. One is a survey on shoreline management. The idea is to find out what people have been doing to lake shorelines. Funding is available to restore shorelines to their natural state, he added.
Water North Coalition – This is a group of northern community leaders who meet to discuss water and wastewater issues. Reeve Kerik attended the latest meeting. One thing that came out of it was the idea of encouraging more women to go into the field of utilities operation. There’s a shortage of such operators generally and lots of opportunities.
Speaking of women in the field, Kerik asked council’s permission to bring M.D. utilities manager Donna Cross to the Water North Coalition meetings. There’s a lot of stuff that goes right over my head, he said.