M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Dec. 6, 2023 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

ATCO, on hazard reduction, etc.

ATCO Electric sent three reps to the meeting to answer questions from councillors – mainly about the company’s hazard-reduction program along power lines.

The main issue that had gotten councillors worked up was the frequency with which trees were blowing down on power lines – particularly in the Smith area. The decision to ask ATCO to pay a visit arose from that situation.

“The power goes off quite often in Smith,” said Councillor Darren Fulmore, “and it’s usually a tree on the line.”

Then there’s the matter of wildfire starting from such incidents, which is pretty well known to happen. There’s a particular concern about this happening along roads which are the only access to or egress from an area – such as Otter Creek and East Fawcett.

What council would like – and made it plain enough to the ATCO reps – is a program of cutting back the trees from the power lines in these areas so as to eliminate that risk.

Council got no hard promises from the ATCO people, but they did take notes and said they could look into it. They also said a brushing program was happening along lines in the Smith area right now.

Councillor Lana Spencer had a related question, about the fire hazard left behind when power line right of ways are sprayed, killing the young trees. They’re supposed to be mulched, was the answer.

Councillor Brad Pearson suggested ATCO look into grants as a way around passing the extra cost of hazard reduction onto power customers.

The ATCO reps promised to bring the concerns about specific areas to what they called “our brushing group,” and would see “how it fits into our schedule.”

Streetlights and what to do about them

Councillor Pearson took the opportunity to ask about how to get quicker action when a street light goes out. This happened recently in Canyon Creek, he said, and lasted for about a month. Pearson got to hear about it frequently from an affected resident, and he wanted to know what the best way of reporting it was.

Online is the way to go, he heard. Download the ATCO reporting app. Or call the ATCO 1-800 number. It’s mainly for reporting power outages, but streetlights are fair game as well.

Council also got a bit of a tutorial on ‘invested’ vs. ‘non-invested’ streetlights. Invested means the M.D. pays a higher rate, but ATCO takes care of all replacement and maintenance. Non-invested means the rate is lower, but ATCO sends the M.D. the bill for maintenance jobs on the lights.

When the power goes out

CAO Barry Kolenosky had a question about how it works when ATCO has to shut the power down to a certain area – say in an emergency – and why it affects a bigger area than necessary.

This was the experience last spring, when ATCO was asked to kill the power along the Old Smith Highway to facilitate firefighting efforts. A lot of people nowhere near the scene also had to do without power, Kolenosky said, and the M.D. heard plenty about it.

The answer is the line that had to be shut off is the main line serving the Smith area. There’s no loop, and so everything beyond the spot where the shutdown was needed had to do without.

Winter Road Maintenance Policy

Cody Borris is the M.D.’s Transportation Facilities Maintenance Manager. He’s been working on a new Winter Road Maintenance Policy and had the latest version for council to look over. Since it had been hashed over at some length at previous meetings, council barely glanced at it this time before giving it a thumbs up.

The policy comes back this week for final approval.

Veterinary Services Incorporated

This is the program that sees M.D. subsidizing large animal veterinary services used by M.D. residents. Ag Fieldman Kendra Kozdroski beamed in from Calgary, where she was attending a training course, to present the report, which is an updated policy for the program.

The new policy, Kozdroski said, has “a few changes,” including a piece on eligibility and “more explanations.”

As described in the written report eligible vet visit costs “are shared on a 60/40 basis,” with VSI picking up the 60 per cent.

The policy will receive final reading at a regular council meeting, probably this week.

Peace Officer Policy

This one was up for review as well. There’s quite a lot to it, including procedures for all sorts of things a municipal peace officer does or might have to do, or use. The use of pepper spray is one of them, as are when and how an officer can use a baton, a shotgun, body camera, notebook, video surveillance and so on.

Senior Peace Officer Paul Mulholland ripped through the presentation by way of a slide show, but – as usual – was slowed down by questions.

For example, from Councillor Pearson: “Do you have to advise a person you have a body camera?”

I don’t have to, said Mulholland, but I do.

“It very often changes their attitude,” he added.

On shotgun use, Mulholland said he uses his four or five times a year, usually to finish off an animal injured in a collision.

Pepper spray he’s used once in 19 years on the job, he said.

There’s even a policy on using CPIC, which stands for Canadian Police Information System. That’ll likely what an officer is doing when he takes your license and registration and goes back to his or her vehicle. You can’t just use it to go on “a fishing trip,” Mulholland told council. “You’ve got to have a reason.”

Hwy. 88 revisited

This item was a late addition by Councillor Norm Seatter. He had a new angle on the ongoing lobby effort to get the province to fix the crumbling section of Hwy. 88 between Hwy. 2 and the Hwy. 754 junction.

Seatter said in talking recently to a councillor from the Town of Slave Lake, he’d found out that doing anything on 88 through the town is going to be a lot more complicated than it will be further north. First there are the underground utilities to contend with, he said. Then there’s the fact the paved trail alongside the highway would have to be removed in a highway upgrade. Then there are jurisdictional issues, due to the highway passing through the Sawridge First Nation.

So how about, Seatter said, we talk to the government about splitting the upgrade into two parts? North of the bridge to the Wabasca highway could be tackled easier and quicker, if it wasn’t tied to the town section.

Good idea, said Pearson, adding, “it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Council discussed the idea of sending a letter on the topic to the Minister of Transportation. It was agreed that the more signatories it has, the more weight it would carry.

“When’s the next Tri-Council meeting?” asked Pearson.

The matter will be further discussed at this week’s council meeting.

The Hwy. 88 bridge over the Lesser Slave River. M.D. council thinks upgrading the highway north of this point might be an easier sell.

Share this post

Post Comment