M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Feb. 28, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Council’s meeting on Feb. 28 had the minimum four attendees to make quorum. At least at first: Councillor Norm Seatter made it five when he was able to tune in remotely. Missing were Councillors Nancy Sand and Darren Fulmore.

Cash to STARS

After many years of resisting fundraising appeals from STARS Air Ambulance, council finally broke down and voted in favour of a contribution, this year and next.

This followed the annual visit by Glenda Farnden, STARS’ chief fundraiser for its northwestern Alberta base, which is in Grande Prairie. She updated council on the services STARS provides, plus a compelling cartographical demonstration (I.e. a map) evidence that showed Lesser Slave River as one of the very last rural municipal holdouts.

Farnden wasn’t asking for much. Around two dollars per capita, in fact, which amounts to $5,750.

Farnden also provided numbers for call-outs for STARS within the M.D. It amounts to about nine per year, she said.

Later in the meeting, council got down to business and discussed the pros and cons. Councillor Sandra Melzer led things off.

“I’m in favour of the $2 per capita,” she said. “I think it’s a worthwhile partnership. They save lives.”

Councillor Lana Spencer wasn’t opposed, but did make a point of saying Alberta Health Services should be funding STARS, not municipalities.

“Should we be supporting fixed-wing too?”

Councillor Brad Pearson, usually the stingiest when it comes to spending money, said: “I’m a believer in the service.”

I’m in favour, said Councillor Norm Seatter, beaming in from some southern location.

“The worst thing that could happen,” Seatter continued, “is the government could take this over and it would be really inefficient.”

Reeve Murray Kerik said he’d support it, but was not in favour of it becoming an “automatic” line item in the M.D. budget.

No worries, said CAO Barry Kolenosky, “I’m not making that recommendation.”

Two mowers

Council had already approved $38,000 for a couple of new mowers in the 2024 budget. Bids had been sought in the meantime and the results were in. Recommended was a pair of diesel units from a dealership in Athabasca – one of seven to submit proposals.

Mowing is a busy job in the warm months, council heard. Forty-eight sites around the M.D. require regular attention, and the M.D. tries to keep a seasonal crew of five or six people on to handle the work. Kendra Kozdroski, the ag fieldman, told council recruiting has gone well so far for those positions, and she’s looking forward to having the full complement in 2024.

Will we still be contracting out mowing services?, asked Councillor Melzer. The plan is to not do that this year, Kozdroski said.

As for the machines, the diesels are more durable, council heard. That supported Reeve Kerik’s experience. The gas ones, he said, “just aren’t built to last.”

The price for the two units is above the budgeted amount by about $5,000. CAO Kolenosky said the M.D. could probably make that up by auctioning off the two older machines that are being replaced.

“People are looking for used mowers,” he said.

Council approved the purchase as recommended.

Helping out with an audit

The M.D. had received a request from the Slave Lake Region Tourism Society for help with auditing the organization’s 2023 financials. Councillor Spencer is on that board, and said it’s tough for the group to manage that job by itself. The M.D. did the auditing last year as well.

Not a big deal, said M.D. Director of Finance Holly Omelchuk, when asked. Make it so, said Councillor Melzer, by way of a motion, approved by all.

No thanks to sponsorship request

Councillors weren’t too keen on sponsoring a conference in Grande Prairie called ‘Hyper Drive: Women in Business Summit.’ Community Futures is putting it on.

Councillor Spencer, speaking on behalf of the absent Councillor Sand, said, “Nancy would rather have it go to Spark the North (another conference being put on by Community Futures), if we’re going to support anything.”

“Agree,” said Melzer.

“Me too,” said Spencer, and made a motion to that effect. It was carried.

Westlock RCMP seek input

In council’s package was a letter from Westlock RCMP Detachment Commander Staff/Sgt. Jeff Sehn. In it, Sehn says March is when RCMP detachments do their annual performance plans. As such, he’s seeking input from stakeholders on what they’d like the RCMP to focus on in the coming year.

Councillors didn’t have a lot of ideas on that, but CAO Kolenosky did. He’d been doing some research, he told council, into ways of informing residents about law enforcement and so on. He’d found what he considered to be a good example of that on the Sturgeon County website. It has all sorts of explanations for people, plus feedback opportunities, opportunities to report incidents and the like. Links to informational videos too. Maybe we could do something like it for our website, he said, which is currently being rebuilt.

“I agree,” said Councillor Pearson. “Take advantage of what’s already been built.”

It would be fairly easy to do, Kolenosky said.

“Do it!” said Pearson.

As far as other RCMP priorities, Councillor Spencer said she’d like to see the return of the D.A.R.E. program in schools, “or something like it.”

Melzer said she’s concerned about speeding on the highways.

Council passed a motion to have admin. look into the website thing; also to invited Westlock and Slave Lake RCMP commanders to a council meeting.

RMA conference

Council looked over the itinerary for the upcoming Rural Municipalities Association (RMA) Spring Convention, which is March 18 – 20 in Edmonton. Council is hoping to get a few minutes to bend the ears of various government ministers, and has requested such opportunities. So far, two are looking likely, they heard – with Environment and Protected Areas Minister Rebecca Schulz and with whoever’s in charge of red tape reduction.

They hadn’t heard back yet from Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver. On the other hand, Reeve Kerik was booked to get in on a telephone conference call with McIver the very next day.

Kerik told his colleagues that a meeting with Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair had also been requested. Sinclair was to get back to him on Monday (Feb. 26), he said, and “today’s Wednesday.”

I think they’re busy on budget, offered the CAO.

Tax credit for firefighters

Council went in camera for a few minutes just before breaking for lunch. Coming out, they voted in favour of a motion to provide a tax credit to qualified firefighters. It’s expected to amount to $6,750.

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