M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Dec. 13, 2017 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Smith School gets its funding

M.D. council passed an interim budget last week, and that was good for Smith School, because it doesn’t have to wait a couple of months to find out if M.D. funding for the family/school liaison position will be continued.
It will, at the requested amount of $23,200.
The money is to pay for Diana Thomas two days a week at the school, helping kids and families with all sorts of issues that get in the way of successful performance at school. The other three days week are covered by the Aspenview School Division.
Council’s meeting started with an impassioned plea from school principal Brenna Liddell, and a more matter-of-fact presentation by Thomas on what she actually does and the impact it is having on students.
Thomas had figures. Surveys she’s done show 38 per cent of Smith School students experience anxiety (the Canadian norm is 18 per cent) and 38 per cent also suffer from depression (Canadian norm is 15 per cent). A lot of what Thomas does in the school is aimed at helping those kids cope and succeed.
“Our school would not be the place it is without Diana,” said Liddell, summing up.
Council’s actual decision on the request came much later in the meeting. As the requested funds would come from the M.D.’s $102,000 Family and Community Support Services budget, FCSS coordinator Peggy Laing spoke up for it.
“It affects 75 kids and their families,” she said. “If this isn’t on the top of our list….”
Councillor Robert Esau, finishing off Laing’s sentence, said, “We might as well shut it down.”

Library budget approved

Council accepted the 2018 Regional Library Board budget as presented, with no discussion. Presenting the report, CAO Allan Winarski said the board was asking for “a very small increase.”
In a related story, council also approved the regional library’s new Safety and Use Bylaw, after having earlier rejected it. It would normally have been a rubber-stamp situation, but council had noted that the updated bylaw failed to mention the existence of the Smith and Flatbush libraries on several occasions. A motion was passed and a letter sent requesting amendments. That was done, so council gave it the thumbs up.

Exhausting all the possibilities

The matter of payment for river dredging was raised by councillor Pearson. The M.D. has been stuck with somebody else’s share of the cost of that project, and Pearson wants to make sure every effort is made to shed some or all of it.
Pearson reminded his council colleagues that the original agreement on Lesser Slave River dredging was that the cost would be equally split between four parties – two municipal and two industrial. But just as the dredging was undertaken, one of the industrial partners sold out and left the area. The new owner of the Mitsue oilfield has declined pay its share, leaving the M.D. holding the bag.
“Should letters be sent?” said Pearson. “We want compensation.”
“I agree,” said councillor Esau. “How come we had to pick it up?”
Pearson went on to note that the new integrated watershed management plan for the Lesser Slave Lake watershed recognizes that “It’s not a municipality’s responsibility to keep a river flowing.”
Pearson made a motion, “to exhaust all avenues to recoup some of the costs borne by the ratepayers of the M.D. of Lesser Slave River.”

Legacy payment

Some time ago, M.D. council approved a contribution of up to $400,000 to the Legacy Centre construction cost, if that project ended up being $2 million or more. That has in fact happened, Winarski told council, and asked for approval to pay the $400,000. The check is already written.
“Let’s get it out of here,” he said.
Council approved the recommendation, but councillor Pearson made a point of saying that no future financial obligation for the Centre should be assumed.

Facility operator contract

The Widewater, Smith and Flatbush community halls will all be managed by the same person for the next two years. Council approved the only qualified bid it received on those three jobs. It was from TJC Oilfield Maintenance Limited (Tiffany Osborne), who has been operating the Flatbush hall for the past while.
“She’s fairly confident she can make it happen,” said Russ Jassman, referring to the challenge of operating facilities in three different communities.
As for the operation of the arena in Smith, no bids were received. Jassman said it would be re-advertised.

Playgrounds, parks and ball fields

Council considered and approved a new policy detailing what the M.D. will do to maintain various outdoor recreational amenities. It specifies how frequently the playgrounds, parks and ball fields will be inspected. It also mentions timely repairs when needed.
“We need to do our due diligence,” Jassman said. “This acknowledges that.”
The facilities on the list include the fire hall playground and complex grounds in Widewater, the new playground and Jean Luc Deba Park in Canyon Creek, the Southshore Drive Viewpoint Park, the Lesser Slave River boat launch park, the grounds of the complex in Smith, the Smith Community Development Park, the playground at the hall in Chisholm and the Flatbush Complex grounds.
Councillor Pearson noted that in some cases, residents are doing maintenance on parks. That’s the case with the park next to the hotel in Canyon Creek, he said, and he thinks some sort of recognition by the M.D. would be appropriate. Councillor Esau agreed, adding that the same could be said for people who look after graveyards.
Council agreed with a Jassman suggestion that these community helpers could be recognized at the M.D.’s annual Fall Social.

Flatbush grows

An interesting tidbit out of an Athabasca Regional Waste Management Commission meeting: Flatbush has grown by two households.
“It’s not much,” said councillor Esau. “But it’s better than getting smaller.”
Somehow – nobody seemed sure how – the landfill commission has gotten hold of population figures for all the hamlets it serves. The number of households given for Flatbush, Chisholm, Hondo and Smith together was 189 – also a small increase, reported councillor Sandra Melzer.
In other landfill news, Melzer said the rate the M.D. pays per resident for the transfer stations will stay at $143.08 next year.

Water North: to join or not

The M.D. has been asked to join a Peace River-based, NADC-sponsored group looking at improving water services across the north. The request and background information were before council for a decision. In presenting the report, Winarski did not express a great deal of enthusiasm for the benefits of membership. However, he said, “it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on it.”
Council accepted the report as information.

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