May 10, 2023 meeting
Looking for a break on water rates
Smith area farmer Tom Andruik appeared before council on the matter of the new, higher rates for water at the Smith truck fill. After a certain amount, the price goes from $3.50 per cubic metre to $12. He said this came as quite a shock when he found his monthly bill had jumped up to something between $700 and $800.
Andruik uses the water for his herd of cows and said at that rate, it isn’t viable. He was looking for a break on the rates.
“There’s got to be a better way,” he said.
Andruik got quite a bit of sympathy from council, but no promises of any rate breaks.
“The problem we have,” said reeve Murray Kerik, “water is highly subsidized already. Everybody is paying to water your cows.”
Councillor Brad Pearson added his perspective.
“The better way is not to use treated water for cows,” he said.
Agreed, said Andruik. He said he’s looked into having a well, or wells dug on his property, but it is an iffy (and expensive) proposition. Meanwhile, dugouts are bone dry this year.
“There’s got to be a creek down there you can draw from,” said councillor Norm Seatter.
“It is feasible, if I can get permission to do that,” said Andruik.
Councillor Sandra Melzer urged him to talk to M.D. ag fieldman Kendra Kozdroski, who can advise about seeking permission.
Meanwhile, council has already talked about what a good idea it would be to have a raw water option at the Smith truck fill station.
“We should have it,” said councillor Nancy Sand. “Other municipalities do.”
Andruik noted that he thinks it’s unfair to have to pay the same rate for water as a multi-million-dollar oil company.
“I’ll tell you what’s unfair,” countered Pearson. “The history of subsidy by taxpayers.”
I’m brand new at it, said Andruik, adding, “farmers aren’t making money.”
Chamber of Commerce
Slave Lake & District Chamber of Commerce executive director Holly MacPherson was next on the agenda. She presented a sort of state of affairs report to council, made a plea for participation by the M.D. and then went through a list of Chamber-organized events for 2023. These included the just-finished trade show and the upcoming Riverboat Daze, Corporate Challenge, Business Excellence Gala, Moonlight Madness and a golf tournament.
Regarding Riverboat Daze, Councillor Pearson suggested organizers bring back the relay race at the river. Great idea, said MacPherson. I’ll bring that to the board.
How about ‘Survivor: Dog Island?’ said Pearson.
“I love the sound of that!” said MacPherson.
Another Chamber event is this week’s election candidates’ forum. Is it on Youtube? asked Pearson.
“Yes, we are live-streaming,” said MacPherson.
Land-use bylaw amendments
Council made short work of a couple of requested motions on amendments to the land-use bylaw, no questions asked.
The first was to give third and final reading to the amendment that changes the zoning of a chunk of land next to the Vanderwell mill in the Mitsue Industrial Park. The company bought the land from the Crown, to be used for storage, triggering the need for a zoning change. The process started all the way back in June of 2022.
The second item was first reading to a bylaw change triggered by an owner wanting to subdivide a piece of land from an agricultural quarter, for residential use. The zoning therefore would have to go from agricultural to residential unserviced.
Council passed first reading and set the required public hearing for June 14.
The property is in the Athabina area, southwest of Flatbush.
This was councillor Fulmore’s addition to the agenda. A family group would like to use the grounds around the community hall in Smith for camping on an upcoming weekend. The M.D.’s policy says the only way you can camp there is if you are renting the hall, which the group is not doing. The request is for an exemption from the policy.
Reeve Kerik said he was okay with it, “as long as the hall’s not booked.”
“Go ahead and camp,” said Pearson.
Council voted in favour of a Sandra Melzer motion to allow the group to camp for a fee of $150; plus, they must have liability insurance.
The M.D.’s two steamer units are wearing out, council heard. Not only that, they are lightweight and not really up to the job, not to mention being slow. They are housed in trailers that can’t handle the load of water, necessitating trips back and forth to refill the tanks.
In the meantime, a local contractor approached the M.D. with the offer to sell a bigger and better unit, mounted on a truck, with a much bigger tank and so on, for $90,000.
This is not a budgeted item, council heard, but it is a good opportunity and would solve some problems.
At about this point in the discussion, councillor Lana Spencer declared a pecuniary interest and left the room.
“I have a bit of an issue with single-sourcing something that wasn’t in the budget,” said councillor Brad Pearson.
“I appreciate your concern, councillor Pearson,” said councillor Norm Seatter, “but I think we have to trust administration. This unit could do twice the work of the other two combined.”
With that, Seatter made the motion to proceed as recommended. It was carried, with Pearson opposed.
Pearson followed up by making a motion to have a policy worked up on purchasing used equipment. It was carried.
Letter of support
Council had no problem granting a request for a letter of support by the Athabasca Recreational Trails Association. The group is applying for a grant from the Community Facility Enhancement Program to do maintenance on the Peace River Trail, which follows the big bend of the Athabasca River. Sandra Melzer made the motion.
Councillor Sand brought to her colleagues’ attention a proposal by a volunteer group to develop trails between Smith and Hondo, and to register them. The thought is that if they are registered trails, with signs, they’ll be safer and better looked-after.
Councillor Fulmore suggested some of the trails should be dedicated for use for horseback riding only.
Ag Service Board grant upped
For council’s information was a report from the M.D.’s ag fieldman about an increase in the provincial grant. This was not expected, since the ASB is roughly in the middle of a four-year funding period. But the news is that the four-year grant amount has been bumped up from $619,536 to $704,215.
Council accepted this as information without discussion, not counting councillor Pearson’s remark about it being a ploy to secure the votes of farmers.
At the table with Al-Pac
The M.D. had received a letter from Alberta Pacific Forest Industries Inc., better known as Al-Pac, inviting council to appoint somebody to participate in the company’s Landscape Advisory Group (LAG). Most councillors seemed to think it was a decent idea. Councillor Pearson wasn’t one of them.
“We have enough boards already to sit on,” he said.
“You’ve got to be at the table to know what’s going on,” countered councillor Seatter.
“Why don’t we give it a year and see if it’s worth it or not?” said reeve Kerik.
“They’re logging in our back yard,” said councillor Sand.
Council appointed Kerik to represent the M.D. on the Al-Pac LAG. Pearson voted against it.
ASB – Two weed inspectors have been hired, reported Melzer. Weed notices are going out and will be enforced. Twine and silage plastic-recycling programs are being discussed. There’ll be a field day, “not sure when.”
Athabasca waste management – A lot of trouble with breaking and entering, reported Sand. Fulmore added that after what he described as “an incident at the main yard,” the RCMP said the case would be laughed out of court.
“It’s frustrating,” Fulmore said.
Kerik: Maybe we should have the RCMP in here to give a report.
Lesser Slave waste management – “Still making ends meet,” said Pearson. On the other hand, the packer is looking at a $26,000 repair bill.
Councillor Spencer added that keeping the recycling centre in Slave Lake going is “costing a fortune.” She said, “we’re going to have to talk about that.”