June 28, 2023 meeting
Community Futures advises on grants for housing
Josh Friesen and Robin-Lee Vance from Community Futures presented some grant funding options that Community Futures is interested in helping the M.D. apply for. The main one was the Housing Accelerator Fund from the federal government. This would require the M.D. to come up with ways to make the area more attractive to housing developers.
Not enough affordable housing is “a dire issue for the region,” said Friesen.
Community Futures is reaching out to municipalities in the area about this funding. Each would have to apply on its own, but could work together on ideas.
“It’s a tight timeline to actually apply,” said Friesen. It isn’t open yet, but when it does this summer municipalities will have 45 days to apply.
However, Friesen added, “It’s a very flexible program.”
“If we do go after this funding,” said councillor Darren Fulmore. “I don’t want to see more studies to sit on the shelf.”
“If you already have plans in place this could play into that,” said Friesen.
Council has been looking at opening up some lots in Smith near the library.
In 2016, Tri-Council (the M.D., Town of Slave Lake, and Sawridge First Nation) did a housing study.
This could be used to start the process, said Friesen.
“In regards to this opportunity,” said Friesen, “use the information we have now. Keep it loosey-goosey.”
“If we wrote down some ideas on a napkin, can you come up with loosey-goosey?” asked councillor Fulmore.
Yes, answered Friesen.
“We’re interested,” said Reeve Murray Kerik.
However, council was concerned that staff might not have enough time to come up with a plan and fill out the grant application.
Public hearing set for Smith rezoning
A Smith resident would like to merge a portion of one lot with another, because the second lot is divided by the railway tracks. Instead, she’d like to have one larger lot north of the tracks and a small one south of the tracks. However, the two lots are currently zoned differently. The split lot is residential un-serviced and needs to be residential serviced to be the same as the other one. Council moved to set a public hearing for July 19 at 10:15 a.m. on the zoning change, which requires an amendment to the land use bylaw.
Traffic Control Bylaw
Council passed a traffic control bylaw, which it had discussed previously. The reason for the delay was to wait for Alberta Transportation to approve it. The M.D. has ministerial approval so was able to pass the bylaw.
This means we’re able to put up school and playground zones, confirmed councillor Darren Fulmore.
Public hearing set for undeveloped road allowance
A man with land off the Old Smith Highway would like to purchase or lease the undeveloped road allowance, which he is currently using as a driveway. Council is not interested in selling, but set a public hearing for a road closure and to enter into a 20-year lease. Last year, council granted the man a shorter lease. Everything around the land is Crown land. The road has been used to access a house since the 1970s. The only infrastructure past it are two abandoned wells. One was closed in 1973 and the other in 1999. The man is willing to grant oilfield access, but they don’t go to these wells.
“I agree with the recommendation not to sell,” said councillor Brad Pearson. However, he was also not in favour of closing the road allowance and a long-term lease. “We’re not fortune-tellers,” he added, saying that the township road system exists to allow access to all land and this undeveloped road may be needed in the future.
Council voted to set a public hearing on the matter, with councillor Pearson opposed.
Marten Beach spraying
The M.D. sprays for weeds on a three-year rotation. This year was Marten Beach’s turn. However, some residents were concerned when they had not been informed ahead of time that the M.D. would be spraying. Administration will look at improving communication about spraying.
Unbudgeted M.D. council initiatives
Councillor Brad Pearson made a motion that council direct administration come up with rules around councillors making unbudgeted requests. However, the rest of council disagreed. Rules are already in place and the money is there, they said. The vote was defeated, with only councillor Pearson in favour.
Alberta Advantage Immigration Program
Council passed a motion to allow M.D. businesses to be part of the Town of Slave Lake’s Alberta Advantage Immigration Program – Rural Renewal Stream Program. Sawridge First Nation is also joining, council heard.
There are two ways that a community can grow, said Ann Holden, who presented the report to council. Through new babies being born and people moving to the area. The M.D. is not going to grow from babies being born, since most people living in the area are in their 50s and older. One form of people moving to the area is international immigration. In the past, programs to encourage international immigration have brought people to rural areas for a short time, when they get permanent residency they move on.
“This program was designed to be a little more wholesome,” said Holden. “This program is setting up more support systems.”
Businessses apply to the Town of Slave Lake with how they will support new employees coming to the area. The town then approves them, and they can start recruiting out of country or immigrants already here can use it to apply to get permanent residence.
“It does not cost us any money,” said Holden. “Eventually, they (the Town of Slave Lake) may want to charge the businesses a fee.”
“The criteria is well laid out,” said Councillor Lana Spencer.
Council was asked to approve the purchase of nine pickups. Instead of the tender for bids going through Alberta Purchasing Connection, administration invited the three Slave Lake dealerships to make bids. This only took one week instead of three, so faster delivery of vehicles. In the past, the M.D. had always gone with the local dealerships. Also, buying local meant better service from the dealerships mechanics. The M.D. is currently having trouble hiring mechanics, so is more dependent on local mechanic shops. Two dealership made bids, but only one could supply the three 1/4 tons. Therefore, administration proposed that the M.D. buy the nine vehicles from Whitecap GMC Ltd. for $528,074.
“It’s not a no-brainer to me,” said councillor Pearson. He didn’t think that the invitational bid lined up with the M.D.’s procurement policy. Also, he believes that dealerships should honour warranty work based on brand not location of dealership.
“I don’t see this as single sourcing,” said councillor Norm Seatter.
Councillor Sandra Melzer had a question about colour. All the new vehicles were white, but the M.D. had changed to blue a few years ago.
That blue was discontinued and white is cheaper, said Kolenosky.
Councillor Fulmore had asked about the reason behind the 1/4 tons.
At budget, council decided to try them to make “more efficient and effective use of our fleets,” answered Kolenosky. Council had considered going further with electric vehicles, but there aren’t charging stations.
Council voted in favour of purchasing the vehicles from Whitecap. Councillor Pearson was opposed.
Old Smith Highway reroute
In 2023 and 2024, the M.D. is rerouting part of the Old Smith Highway to get it further from the Lesser Slave River which was causing erosion. Through a mix-up, the tender for replacing four of the culverts did not include all of the work needed. Of these, two are to be done in 2023. One is being done in 2024 and the fourth didn’t get approval for funding.
The M.D. has two grants to cover the work for the 2023 culverts, but has to do the work by December 2023 or lose some of the funding.
Administration recommended that council hire the contractor which was already hired to start the work to finish it. The total cost is $180,393 plus GST, of this $39,628 was already agreed on.
“This project is within budget,” said Kolenosky.
Councillor Pearson was opposed, because “we changed the scope after the fact.”
The rest of council disagreed and voted for the new contract.
The M.D. of Lesser Slave River is looking to collect traffic ticket income from the provincial government. When M.D. bylaw officers issue a traffic ticket, a portion of the money is supposed to go to the M.D., but the province isn’t paying this money.
“How do we track and get hold of this money that is due to us,” asked councillor Pearson. “We need to chase that revenue stream.”
“We’re working on it,” said Kolenosky.
Bylaw Officer Paul Mulholland said he can make a report for any time frame that shows what tickets the M.D. issued. Also, the new e-ticket system makes it easier to track.
Councillor Pearson is interested in this information for when council talks to provincial ministers.
The estimated value of the traffic tickets issued by M.D. bylaw officers in April to June was $13,765, says the written report.
Security Upgrade Program
Mulholland updated a report he’d given earlier about a security upgrade program. In 2022, M.D. facilities had 20 security incidents. Since the first update, there have been more incidents. The Slave Lake Landfill was broken into for the fourth time in three months.
“We recorded them saying they were coming back for the bigger stuff,” said Kolenosky.
The Smith shop had been broken into five times in recent months. A storage shed at the administration office was broken into, but nothing was stolen. Administration sent out requests for security guards driving between facilities, but the only bid so far was for over $100,000 per year. Money has been spent to upgrade fuel tanks. Fencing construction should start in July.
The current security system is too sensitive and sends alerts for any movement, not just potential break ins, said Mulholland. Once the bugs are worked out, this will be used in other facilities.
Capital projects – water and sewer
Doug Baird is heading up some capital projects for the M.D. These include PLC Replacement (which has to do with the water plants) in Smith, Canyon Creek, Mitsue, and Flatbush. The week of June 20 work started at the Smith plant. While the plant is down, the M.D. is trucking water.
“It’s getting close,” Baird said. It was down to getting the software initiated.
The Canyon Creek one will be done in stages during the month of August. The other two will take about a week each and will be done in September.
The Canyon Creek organic control is finished. All of the other projects will be done in the fall or winter.
These are a new Marten Beach truck fill station and raw water pump-house replacement in Smith and Canyon Creek.
Capital projects – Canyon Creek
Brian Vance reported on the Canyon Creek Harbour clean up.
“We’re about done,” he said. The last job was picking up debris (wood chips, nails, etc.) which had washed onto the beach.
The majority of the work was done in the winter.
Part of this work was removing 130 truckloads of gravel. This was taken to the Widewater campground area and will be used to make six drive-in campsites near the Widewater Complex.
Vance also repaired the Canyon Creek dock. Ice and low water twisted some pipes. These were replaced with sleeves and pins which allow the dock to go up and down depending on water level.
The M.D. council will meet on July 19, August 23, and August 30.