Feb. 28, 2018 meeting
Update from Community Futures
Council heard that Community Futures Lesser Slave Lake surpassed its lending goals for the 2017/18 fiscal year. Ten loans were issued, for a value of $574,000. Forty-one loans are active and seven were repaid during that period.
“We’re in very good shape,” said Executive Director Josh Friesen. “Even with all our write-offs.”
Community Futures is involved in plenty besides lending money. It does business advisory and training services, facilitates the Business Support Network (BSN) projects in three communities and undertakes various projects for municipalities, among others. Asked how the BSN is catching on in High Prairie and Wabasca, Friesen said “it’s really hard. We’re trying to figure out how to get people involved.”
4-H growing in Smith area
A representative of the new(ish) Mirror Landing 4H Club in Smith attended the meeting to introduce the club to council and ask for some help. JD Dennis said the club is doing well, running various successful programs and would like more access to M.D. facilities – specifically the arena.
“The club really took off,” he said. “We’ve got a waiting list for next year. Programs will be going year-round.”
Those programs include ones that deal with horses, cattle, dogs and small engines. Access to storage at the arena would be handy, Dennis said, as well as having a key to the building.
Councillors seemed generally pleased with the success of the group and happy about the arena getting used. However there is no getting away from the fact that other people would like the arena to be used for other things.
“I totally support what you’re doing,” said councillor Becky Peiffer. “I just don’t want ice taken off the table.”
Dennis said he understands that.
“We’ll work with any other club that wants to come in, SHARA and others, to make sure everybody gets their turn,” he said.
Dennis also shared the news that the club is hosting singer George Canyon at the Smith Hall on April 14 as a fundraiser.
Weed and pest policies pass
Council rubber-stamped a handful of changes to policies on weed and pest control appeals that had already been approved by the Agricultural Service Board. The main change in both cases is to reduce the appeal panels from seven to five members. This was done due to the difficulty of finding enough people to serve on the panels.
The M.D. is tired of chasing bad debts and so according to a policy passed last year, administration asked council to approve the writing off of $15,378 in what it regards as uncollectable bills.
This frees admin from the time, effort and expense of dealing with these items. On the other hand, said finance director Jason Warawa, don’t get the idea the debts are ‘forgiven.’
“We’re just taking them off our active books,” he said. If the people in question show up and apply for municipal services, the bad debts will be resurrected.
Council approved the recommendation.
Thanks to council’s passage earlier of an interim 2018 budget, staff was able to get tenders out for certain approved equipment purchases. The results of some of those were before council for approval.
“Let’s spend some money!” said reeve Murray Kerik, kicking off the proceedings.
The first item was to approve the lower of two bids for a new grader. Brandt Tractor was the winner at $420,000, which was less than what the M.D. had budgeted.
It’s not the first John Deere grader the M.D. has purchased. Asked how the operators like the switch to John Deere, public works manager Bill Klassen said some didn’t like the difference from what they had been accustomed to.
Councillor Bradley Pearson’s response to that was that “for $50,000 (the difference between the high and low bid) they can get used to that seat.”
Next up was the purchase of a lowboy trailer. Council had budgeted $79,000 for a used one of these, but Klassen said looking into it M.D. found that a new one could be had well within the budget. Council approved a bid by Flaman for a $61,150, which was the lowest of five bids, ranging up to $94,000.
“It’s a really good win,” said Klassen.
A new loader was next on the list. This one drew a good response, with eight bids from seven different suppliers. The cheapest was a Hyundai unit, but Klassen’s recommendation was to go with the John Deere, based on something called ‘quantitative and qualitative ranking,’ most of the details of which were not discussed. The one advantage Klassen did mention was the local maintenance service. The $321,000 price was $70,000 over what had been budgeted. He also mentioned that the Hyundai and Hitachi models were cheaper, “but it’s hard to get parts for them.”
Councillor Brad Pearson: “What can we expect to get on the old loader? “
Klassen: “$150,000 to $180,000.”
Sealing those cracks
Item #4 on the Klassen spending spree was the crack-sealing contract for the season – or rather for two seasons. Council had no problem approving the deal with the low bidder for $30,562 per year. This was Federal Joint Sealing Co., whose bid was well below the next lowest and far below the highest. This raised a few eyebrows around the council table.
“How can there be such a spread?” asked councillor Jeff Commins, referring to the roughly $65,000 gap between the low and high bids.
Klassen said it probably had to do with some companies adding the work to jobs they already have lined up in the area, as opposed to others not having that advantage.
Ranch Road replacement
The request for bids on the replacement of a ‘bridge’ culvert on Ranch Road near Smith also drew a healthy response from contractors. Nine bids came in, with the lowest at $309,843 from Cox Contractors Ltd. of High Prairie. Council went for that one, per admin’s recommendation. Klassen’s report included an estimate of $76,000 for engineering on the project. The M.D. had budgeted $390,000.
Eating Creek erosion control
Protecting the newly rebuilt and paved Poplar Lane from Eating Creek eating away at it is something the M.D. has to do. Five bids on the job were received, with the lowest being $108,600 by an outfit called Unsurpassable Construction Ltd. of Didsbury.
The work, Klassen explained, involves “taking out the bank and replacing it with riprap – big boulders so it can’t come back in.”
Reeve Murray Kerik: “It’s got to be done or we’ll lose the road.”
Council approved the recommendation to go with Unsurpassable. The bids ranged up to $279,000.
Eating Creek bridge on Poplar Lane, before the pavement.
Removing brush from 28 kms. of ditches is in the M.D. budget for this year. Klassen said he’d added a bit of work to that to “achieve economies of scale.” The result was a low bid of $168,400 from Bush Tech Services. The added piece of work is clearing four hectares of land for an expansion to the M.D.’s Moose Portage gravel pit.
Agricultural Service Board – Councillor Melzer reported that a new federal funding scheme is coming out. Called ‘Canadian Agricultural Partnership,’ it replaces the ‘Growing Forward’ plan.
Planning is already underway for the ASB’s Fall Social. It’ll be in Flatbush and will have a Hawaiian theme, complete with pig roast.
Slave Lake Airport – Councillor Pearson reported that the board approved a new taxiway for jets to a hangar on the south side of the airport. It’ll be done at no cost to the airport authority.
“It’s a place to park executive jets,” he said. “It could be a good thing for us.”
Caribou – Reeve Kerik had more news on the lobby efforts of various municipalities on behalf of industry on the caribou conservation issue. He and councillor Robert Esau had been at a meeting between concerned municipalities and provincial officials in Whitecourt. He made it quite plain he gives no credence whatever to the conservation plans as they’ve been presented. Kerik scorned the definition of ‘disturbed’ area that’s been put forward. Going by that, he said, up to 65 per cent of the land in some municipalities could become off limits to industry, with dire consequences for local economies.
“It’s a big contentious point,” he said, noting that Mayor Jim Rennie of Woodlands County and Mayor Maryann Chichak of Whitecourt are leading the fight against the caribou conservation efforts.
“It’s going to cost us taxpayers about $500,000 a head,” Kerik told his colleagues. “I’m old school. If they can’t adapt, maybe it’s time they went. Or move a bit farther north.”
Kerik went on to say that if the caribou plans go ahead as proposed, municipal leaders in the Whitecourt area fear about a thousand job losses, due to oil and gas and forestry not being able to operate in the bush.
Regional Tri-Council – CAO Winarski brought up this topic, to brief council on some of what they could expect at the upcoming meeting of the group. One of those items is a presentation by the board of Gilwood Golf Club. Winarski also urged council to think about the value of the tri-council in terms of advocacy. Taking up the topic, reeve Kerik said: “We have to take a close look at why we have tri-council. If it’s not to regional advantage, what’s the point? I think there are advantages.”
Pearson also spoke up for the tri-council role in lobbying for more Alberta Health Services support for seniors living in seniors’ residences.
Meetings in March – Council discussed and then adjusted its meeting schedule for the month of March. Due to various conflicts, there will only be one regular meeting in the month and that will be on March 28. Needing to meet once before that to approve a gravel-crushing contract, council agreed to a quick meeting on March 7 at 3:00 p.m.