M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Jan. 24, 2018
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Policing report

RCMP Staff Sgt. John Spaans made much the same report for council that he’d made for town council the previous night. The main difference was an emphasis on numbers in the M.D. (he said ‘county’), rather than the town.
So there were 46 crimes against persons reported in the M.D. in 2017, compared to 313 in the Slave Lake. That number has been pretty steady for five years.
Property crimes were down a bit in the M.D. in 2017, at 101. Vehicle thefts were up, though, to 15 from seven in 2016.
“We just had one this morning,” said Spaans. “Through GPS we found it on the ice at Faust.”
Speaking of the ice, Spaans said the RCMP took part in a joint forces operation on the lake, checking out the ice-fishing action. They found some illegal fishing going on, he said, and drugs being used.
Councillor Brad Pearson asked about the admissibility of security camera images in court, with their notoriously grainy quality.
“Something’s better than nothing,” said Spaans. “At the very least it gives us somewhere to start.”
Speaking of the detachment’s crime reduction strategy, Spaans said, “The idea is to stay on top of these people.” ‘These people’ being chronic offenders.

Changes to Rugged & Real Scholarship eligibility

Council approved an updated version of the policy on the M.D.’s Rugged & Real Scholarship – but not unanimously. One councillor objected to the notion of opening it up to people who don’t live in the M.D.
“I don’t agree with awarding scholarships to non-M.D. residents,” said Brian Rosche.
The clause in question is a new one that allows seasonal or student staff of the M.D. to apply, regardless of their residence.
Councillor Brad Pearson said he supported that idea.
“That might deprive an M.D. resident,” said Rosche.
Pearson said that would come down to the merits of each case, which council gets to review and debate at the time.
Another change: any resident who is seeking upgrade his or her education is eligible to apply, not just young people.
Council passed the new policy by a 4 – 1 vote, with Rosche opposed.

Closed meetings

There are some new rules when it comes to holding council discussions behind closed doors. Although it’s hard to tell what’s different from the old way of doing things, council had to go through the motions of reviewing the matter and acknowledging the protocol.
There are 14 sections of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) that can be cited as justification for going in camera. When council wants to do that, it has to now refer to that list to find its justification.
On the face of it, this seems to broaden the possibilities for shutting out the public; in practice, it’ll probably come down to the tried and true ‘legal, land and personnel’ reasons.
Otherwise, said CAO Allan Winarski in his written report, “All public have the right to attend a council meeting, except for someone who has been expelled due to improper conduct in that meeting.”

Large charges

M.D. peace officer Paul Mulholland’s annual report contained the news of a couple of whopper fines for violation tickets on the road – one for $14,000 and one for $22,000.
These were for trucks being over-weight on M.D. roads and bridges.
“Have they made it through court?” asked councillor Pearson.
“Yes,” said Mulholland. “They pled guilty to a lesser amount.”
“When I told the one driver his fine could have been as high as $69,000 he actually thanked me for the $22,000 fine,” he said.
Mulholland said there were 88 complaints from the public that he investigated in 2017, ranging from unsightly properties and abandoned vehicles to noise and dogs. Thirteen remain unresolved. Notably down last year were complaints about ATV use in hamlets. Only one or two all year, Mulholland said.
Councillor Pearson asked about enforcement of unsafe loads on their way to the landfill. Does discretion come into it? Mulholland said whether or not he writes a ticket depends on the likelihood of the load or some of it coming out of the truck or off the trailer.
“You have to look at the danger to the people following,” he said.

Brad Pearson

Local sprockets cheaper

In a review of the cheque registry, councillor Pearson asked what a roughly $8,000 payment to a local Slave Lake steel fabrication firm was for. Making sprockets for the waste treatment plant was the answer. Lyle Farris, who looks after sewer and water for the M.D. said it cost about half as much as ordering the parts from the manufacturer.

Thumbs down to tax relief

Council accepted administration’s recommendation to not grant a requested tax break to an energy company. The company had asked for a 10 – 20 per cent reduction, due to its struggles to make ends meet.
In his report for council on the matter, Winarski reminded them of the historically low tax levels in the M.D. Another factor is a recent decision by the provincial government to freeze linear assessment, giving energy companies a break when oil prices are climbing and in effect, downloading the deficit onto municipalities.
“Industry is already getting a break,” he said.

Helping SHARA

Council was asked to consider a request from SHARA for FCSS funds to support three community events in Smith. These are Family Day, Spring Fling and July 1 picnic. The idea is to throw a barbecue at each, “to recognize people’s efforts in helping others.”
Council approved the request with no discussion.

AHS pre-school program in Smith

Peggy Laing reported that Alberta Health Services put on a program for pre-school children in Smith in the fall. This comes at no cost to the M.D. or the participants. Evidently it worked well enough, because AHS plans to continue. The plan is to move into the community hall, Laing said.

Board reports

Ag Service Board – there will be a business plan review on Feb. 6 in the morning. Councillor Esau said it would be good if councillors can attend it.
Esau also reported on the ASB provincial conference that was held in Grande Prairie. It had good speakers and good information, he said. One of them told of the difficulties he faced when tuberculosis was discovered in his cattle herd. When all was said and done, over 11,000 animals had been killed.
Esau said the group heard from many experts who debunked the idea of climate change generally, and dismissed Canada’s significance in the production of CO2 altogether.
Preaching further to the choir, he said, “the carbon tax doesn’t work.”
On a related note, Winarski said ATCO Electric is looking into what it would take to fix up M.D. facilities with solar panels. Councillor Rosche suggested it might be worthwhile looking at fuel cell technology.
“It’s the only way we’re going to get any of that carbon money back,” he said.
Tri-council health committee – wait times at the Family Care Clinic were discussed at the last meeting, said councillor Rosche. “They’re trying to come up with a solution for that,” he said. “They’re supposed to be bringing in three more nurse practitioners to help.”
Six doctors are working, Pearson added, and three more are on their way.
Pearson spoke up for the staff at the hospital. Having spent some time there recently, he said “the amount of activity in there is mind-boggling. It’s hectic.”
Getting back to wait times, Rosche said the clinic should have a sign up showing how long patients might be waiting. He said he’s seen it elsewhere.
FireSmart – Rosche said this committee is talking about getting trails and maybe a playground installed at the Visitor Information Centre. “It was suggested the M.D. could partner on the costs,” he said.

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