M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

April 10, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

New in P&D

Council was introduced to the newest M.D. employee, Samantha Dyck. She’ll be helping out in planning and development, a field in which she has considerable experience. Dick worked previously both for the Town of Slave Lake and, more recently, for the County of Greenview doing the same type of work.

“Welcome to the good side!” quipped Reeve Murray Kerik.

Dyck told council she has a certificate in land-use planning from the University of Alberta.

Later in the meeting, council passed a motion to formally appoint Dyck to the position of planning and development officer.

Funding request for Smith School

Smith School Liaison Rebecca Weber appeared as a delegation, to ask the M.D. for money to help pay for school field trips and such. It wasn’t clear how much she was asking for, but she did tell council that the estimated cost of bringing the students to a number of places and events for the school year was $7,430. Busing is the biggest part of that amount.

Aspen View School Division, council heard, does not fund extra-curricular activities.

“They don’t even fund a proper asphalt pad for outdoor sports,” said Councillor Nancy Sand.

Are there other sources of funds? asked Councillor Brad Pearson.

“We do some fundraising,” said Weber.

The M.D. already contributes about half the salary of the Weber’s position. She made a point of thanking council for that.

“We sure do like the liaison program,” said Reeve Murray Kerik. “It makes a big difference.”

Contractors vs. employees

This wasn’t on the agenda, but it came up in the course of discussion of another item, and Councillor Pearson had some things to say about it. Noting that the M.D. is getting a lot of its work done lately by contractors, rather than regular employees, he said these people don’t appear on the M.D.’s organizational chart. He wonders how the cost is being dealt with, budget-wise.

“These contract positions are filling a void,” he said, “but they’re not accounted for in our org. structure. I’d like to keep the reins on this horse.”

Accordingly, Pearson made a motion to have administration draft a report on contracted services.

His colleagues were less than enthusiastic.

“We approved the budget two weeks ago,” said Councillor Sandra Melzer.

This is day-to-day stuff, said Councillor Norm Seatter. “I don’t know that we need a report.”

“All I’m asking for is to justify the expense,” said Pearson.

“It’s just adding tasks,” said Councillor Sand, adding that the expenses will show up in the finance director’s monthly reports anyway.

“All I want to do is understand contracted services a bit more,” said Pearson. “It’s unfortunate the people in this room don’t want to find out.”

Pearson’s motion was defeated.

IT upgrades

A recent review of the M.D.’s information technology capability found it lacking in a number of respects. It turns out some equipment is getting old and isn’t up to what’s required of it. So a report was worked up for council, proposing upgrades to the tune of $38,000.

The biggest items on the shopping list are a pair of servers for $10,000 and new phones, also a $10,000 cost.

The phone system at the main office is 15 years old, council heard. In Flatbush it’s more like 30 years old. Transferring calls is an issue.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Councillor Seatter. “We don’t want a server to crash.”

Council approved the extra expenditure.

No love for industrial land study

This was one of three additions to the agenda by councillor Pearson. Referring to the recently completed industrial lands study – a joint project of the M.D. and the Town of Slave Lake – he said, “as expected, very high in price.”

What he’s heard, Pearson said, is that the town is now proposing to study the matter further, costing even more money. He called it “a re-study on the study.”

Pearson is not in favour of further M.D. participation.

“We have our own interests to look after here,” he said. “Throwing more money at a study is pointless, in my view.”

Voyent Alert

Pearson addition #2 was about Voyent Alert, the public notification system the M.D. has signed onto. By downloading the app, residents can be alerted in the case of emergencies, road closures – all sorts of things.

Pearson apparently found out recently that a lot of people don’t have it, and didn’t know about a water main break in Widewater. People also told him they don’t want to be bothered by a lot of information they don’t care about. But you can choose what you want to be notified about, he said.

“There needs to be some education on it,” Pearson said. “When a road closes or a bridge is out, I want to know!”

Seeing letters

When letters are sent out on behalf of council, can we have a look at them before they go? That was Pearson’s question. Apparently it hasn’t been happening.

Sure, said CAO Barry Kolenosky. “It should be straightforward enough.”

Marten beach truck fill

Councillor Seatter asked for an update on this project, which is expected to be completed sometime this month.

It’s in the final stages, said Kolenosky, with “a couple of challenges,” yet to be overcome. One of them, he said, has to do with figuring out the connections between the “flow point” and the M.D.’s financial system.

The M.D. wants to be sure, Kolenosky added, that the new system is good to go, “before we turn it on and shut down the other one.”

Power line fire hazard

Councillor Darren Fulmore brought up the matter of clearing trees away from powerlines, or getting somebody else to do it. It’s especially important for roads where there’s only one way in and out. Trees do fall on powerlines quite often, he said and fires can result.

Fulmore has raised this matter before. This time, he asked for a resolution to be drafted to take to the Pembina Zone of the Rural Municipalities Association (RMA). That would be the first step to getting it onto the agenda of the next RMA conference, which would be next fall.

That’ll take a year before anything happens, said Pearson. We should write ATCO a letter.

Rail lines are a hazard too, Fulmore continued. He suggested writing a letter to MP Arnold Viersen on the subject.

Reeve Kerik said CN Rail once employed a car with a water tank that followed its trains, to put out fires in high hazard times. They should do that again.

“It should be mandatory when it’s dry like this,” he said.

Council passed three motions. One was to take the matter to the Pembina Zone; one was to send a letter to ATCO, asking for action on trees threatening power lines – especially on Otter Creek Rd. and East Fawcett Rd.

The third motion was to send a letter to CN, asking about the fire suppression unit, with copies to go to the MLAs and MP.

Agricultural Service Board

Councillor Fulmore reported that the ASB thinks the M.D. should have a policy on soil conservation. One will be coming forward for council to review, he said.

In other ASB news, the M.D.’s letter requesting that the M.D. be included in a federal drought designation program did not produce the desired results. The letter did get a response, but not the one the M.D. was hoping for.

“So they were saying they don’t give a ***’s *ss about us?” said Reeve Kerik.

“If you read between the lines,” said Fulmore.

(To be continued next week)

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