M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Dec. 20, 2023 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Getting onto the same page, re: South Shore sewer

South Shore resident Barry Massell appeared as a delegate and read a prepared statement for council on various aspects of the M.D.’s program to induce the remaining hold-outs to get connected to the wastewater system. One of those is Massell.

Massell was particularly unhappy about the M.D. ostensibly getting out of the business of providing support to users of the grinder pump system. This being a system – Massell emphasized over and over – “imposed by the M.D.”

“Unbelievable,” said Massell. “Where do the costs end?”

Judging by his comments, Massell had gotten much of his information from articles in this newspaper, which although accurate as far as we know, seem to have left quite a lot open to interpretation.

Concluding, Massell said, “I need support, now and in the future.”

It turns out the M.D. is still offering support – at least as far as keeping an inventory of replacement pumps, and in looking after the warrantees. Learning that, and a few other points of clarification offered by CAO Barry Kolenosky and Director of Utilities Donna Cross, Massell seemed more at ease with the costs he is facing (which he pegged at $16,000).

“Do you feel better about things?” asked Councillor Norm Seatter.

“When I get it in writing,” Massell said.

Massell also pointed out apparent conflicts between wording in two M.D. policies (F10 and F11) on the sewer connection topic.

Reeve Murray Kerik observed that what’s happening appears to be largely a matter of communication, or the lack of it.

One thing that doesn’t help, offered Cross – speaking of the situation in general, and not Massell’s case in particular – is a widespread misconception about what is covered by the warranties on the equipment.

“We need to send something out,” said Kerik.

Community Futures

Josh Friesen of Community Futures Lesser Slave Lake (CF) was on the agenda to let council know about various grants CF has applied for, or is going to apply for. If successful, they will make possible the launch of several new programs. Friesen provided details on each, and suggested M.D. support, or participation of some kind, would be desirable.

YESS – this stands for Youth Empowerment Support Services. Friesen described it as an employment program focused on youth – youth being 15 to 30 years of age, according to a federal government definition.

FLY – This one is a micro-grant program for youth to start community initiatives, Friesen said. The application is for $1.3 million, which would amount to 160 grants.

POP – A program for small economic development projects, Friesen explained.

Lastly, Friesen is seeking a grant to help set up what he called a “regional growth team.” If the application is successful, “we hope to hire an economic development officer,” he said, and a grant proposal writer, along with an admin support person.

Josh Friesen

Interim operating budget

Council passed an interim operating budget, which allows the M.D. to continue to function while the final budget is being worked out. The report on this interim budget was not included in council’s agenda package. Typically, an interim operating budget is set at the same levels as the previous year’s budget, and is intended to cover the first three or four months of the year, just in case.

The above item was brief, but behind it were lots of budget discussions, held at meetings not covered by any newspaper reporters. The only comment about those discussions came from Brad Pearson in patented Pearson metaphorical style:

“I was treading water in the Bermuda Triangle for a while. But the lifeline was thrown, bringing me back on board.”

Capital additions

Another budget matter on the agenda was the addition of a couple of items missed the first time around. These were the purchase of ‘body worn’ cameras (for peace officers) and security upgrades for facilities. The first is an $18,305 item and the budgeted cost for the other is $160,000.

Again, the report was not in the agenda package, so the details are unavailable, such as what sort of security upgrades are planned.

Updates

Council approved recommended updates to one bylaw and a couple of policies, plus the procedures that go along with those policies.

The bylaw has to do with fees charged for M.D. services. The new schedule of fees goes into effect Jan. 1.
One set of policies and procedures updated has to do with M.D. employees – vacations, attendance, hours of work, various types of leave, nepotism and so on.

Nepotism has to do with hiring family members and related things. Councillor Spencer asked about how the policy deals with a situation in which a couple in the same department “get into a relationship.”

The policy covers that, said CAO Kolenosky. It says you can’t have somebody supervising an intimate partner, or words to that effect. If that happens, one or the other has to be moved to another department.

The other policy and set of procedures has to do with M.D. peace officers – what they can and can’t do and how, etc.

Strategic plan for utilities

This document was worked up “for the purpose of identifying and resolving operational bottlenecks and inefficiencies….” says the written report. It deals with various categories, including:

Rates and fees for water and wastewater, grinder pump maintenance, non-compliant sewage systems in the South Shore area, water meter management, facilities maintenance and employee training.

Councillors asked a couple of questions about the troublesome and expensive membrane system for water filtration. It appears the M.D. has run out of patience with it, and will get rid of it.

“Get that membrane replacement in the strat plan,” said Councillor Pearson. “We’re blowing through money on those.”

Councillor Seatter brought up a $10 fee that the M.D. has added to utility bills. It’s to go toward capital replacement, and people need to know that, he said.

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