M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

May 23, 2018 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Poplar Lane zoning

Councillor Brian Rosche brought up this matter during CAO Allan Winarski’s report on strategic priorities. We need to get this settled, Rosche said, requesting it be put at or near the top of the priority list.
We can do that, said Winarski, but be advised there is no ‘magic wand.’
“If you set a community norm,” he advised, “there will be those who fall above and those who fall below. There’s a lot of history out there, and you’re going to hear it.”
“Can we set a date?” said Rosche, pushing his point.
Looking at their calendars, councillors managed to find two dates in the month of June when all were free to book another meeting. They settled on June 27 to discuss Poplar Lane. Later that evening the regular meeting of council will be held in Widewater.

Flatbush lift

Rural services director Russell Jassman reported that significant extra costs may be required on a ‘platform lift’ for the Flatbush Complex. The M.D. has budgeted a certain amount this year for the installation, but it’s suspected the building structure is not up to supporting the stress that such a device would put on it. Jassman said engineers have been engaged to assess the situation.
Councillor Sandra Melzer was not delighted with the news.
“We’re looking at a lot of money for something that might be used a couple of times a month,” she said. “Can’t the library be moved downstairs?”
It could be moved into the meeting room, Jassman said, but then we’d lose the meeting room.
“We’ll get some numbers,” he said.

Tollenaar Bridge campground

The M.D. is interested reviving and taking over a campground at the Tollenaar Bridge north of the Mitsue Industrial Park. Jassman has been looking into it, with the perhaps predictable result that it will cost more – both in time and money – than anticipated. For one thing, he told council, the work in getting it transferred over from the province (it was established as a provincial campground in 1958, and abandoned about 30 years ago) is onerous, and would have to be farmed out. That, plus the required surveying, is estimated at $13,000.
Councillor Melzer didn’t like the sound of that, either.
“We have roads not getting fixed and we’re looking at spending money on recreational stuff?”
“We’ll get some numbers,” Jassman repeated.

Nibbles, but no bites on gravel

Winarski informed council that the M.D. had received no bids on this year’s gravel hauling contract. There was some ‘tire-kicking,’ but that was it.
“Why?” asked councillor Becky Peiffer.
“The whole province is under construction,” Winarski said.
The contract will be re-tendered.

Disaster services

According to bylaw, council – in its other role as the disaster services committee – reviewed the regional emergency plan. This outlines the role of the municipality in the event of an emergency and assigns individual roles.
Winarski reminded councillors it’s only a matter of time before a fire or a flood. The good news is “a lot of our people have incident command training,” he said.
Council accepted the report as information.

Gilwood request

The question for council was whether to write off Gilwood Golf Club’s 2018 tax bill. This followed a request by the Gilwood board for a $21,000 donation from the Regional Tri-Council. This request was made in March. As the tri-council is pretty much out of money, the matter was referred to the individual members. Gilwood subsequently requested the tax relief.
Winarski’s report included the fact that the club has made good progress lately in paying off its debts, and has been actively fundraising.
Councillor Brian Rosche made a motion to grant the request.
“We support other recreational groups in the M.D.” he said. “It would be a huge loss if that golf course shut down.”
Reeve Murray Kerik expressed concern that the request might become annual. Councillor Jeff Commins said he didn’t think so.
“Tom (Tippin) has done a great job,” he said, adding, “as far as economic development is concerned, the golf course is an anchor.”
The motion was carried.

Canyon Creek beach?

Councillor Brian Rosche asked Russ Jassman if there is progress on the public beach at Canyon Creek. It’s being surveyed, Jassman said.
But what about cleaning up the grass and brush, said Rosche. That’s a matter for discussion with Alberta Environment and Parks, said CAO Allan Winarski.
Rosche said he hoped it could be sorted out in time to have a decent beach for people to use this summer.

Cross Lake Provincial Park expansion

As promised, Winarski had a report on a matter raised earlier by councillor Robert Esau about a proposed expansion of Cross Lake Provincial Park. What had initially been an idea of Athabasca County to put a small park in around Narrow Lakes had been turned into something much bigger, encompassing a big chunk of Crown land east of Cross Lake. In the meantime, Esau’s views on the matter had not softened.
“I’m deadly against this proposal,” he said.
Esau said the expansion as envisioned would do nothing to enhance public use and would “hinder our tax revenue.”
Esau went on to say the M.D. should go on record as opposing the plan.
That went further than Winarski’s recommendation, which was to request that the M.D. be kept in the loop (which so far it hasn’t) on the developments. Before coming down hard on one side or another, he urged council to “consider the big picture,” which (he implied) could include long-term benefits on the recreational side of things. He suggested the legions of rec vehicle wilderness users that are being shut out of the Eastern Slopes are going to be turning their attention to the north.
Council approved a motion by councillor Sandra Melzer that Alberta Parks keep the M.D. advised as to “any steps toward the formation of an expanded Cross Lake Provincial Park.”

Utility rates up

Utility rates in the M.D. haven’t changed for over a decade, while costs of providing the services have gone up. Therefore council decided at budget time a two per cent increase was in order. To make it legal, council had to enact a couple of bylaws. One covers the water and sewer charges generally and the other covers water charges for the Mitsue Industrial Park.
The new rates go into effect June 1.

Flatbush store

Added to the agenda by councillor Melzer, this was a request for tax relief for a business in Flatbush that suffered a fire. It’s going to be four to six months before the store can re-open, Melzer said, and until then, it has no revenue.
Reeve Murray Kerik said as far as he knew, the owner was only asking that the M.D. not assess a penalty for late payment of taxes.
Winarski advised caution.
“Let’s take a look at the implications,” he said. “Everybody who has a fire will use that against you.”
Councillor Esau offered some perspective: “There’s only two things left in Flatbush,” he said. “The store and the post office. In our community the store far outweighs the golf course in Slave Lake.”
At that, councillor Jeff Commins pointed out the two are not comparable, because the store owner has insurance. “The money is coming in,” he said.
Council made no decision on the matter.

Safety report

Finance director Jason Warawa (who is also responsible for safety) took council quickly through the annual safety report. It included the good news of a 94 per cent score on the internal audit, although a couple of areas scored well below the average. These were a) management leadership and organizational commitment and b) emergency response. They’re going to take some work.
“We’re trying to improve our safety culture,” Warawa said.

Holiday trailers in Canyon Creek

Councillor Rosche spoke to this item, about which he said there have been some complaints. There is a bylaw with regard to how many holiday trailers can be on a property, and how they can be used. There are suspicions it is not being followed.
“Are they being rented out?” he said. “I don’t know. Could we have the bylaw officer look into it?”
Winarski said the M.D. office had received complaints, possibly from the same person.
“We’ll follow up,” he said.

Harbour developments at Canyon Creek

Rosche also had a request from the Canyon Creek Harbour Authority for council’s consideration. The authority is putting in a new wash house and wants to know if the M.D. can help out with sewer and water for it.
Rosche also asked if the M.D. would be willing to meet with the harbour authority to discuss the transfer of the campground and harbour to the M.D.
“It is viable,” he said. “I think we could do well with it.”
Council passed a motion directing administration to look into it.

Fire hall park at Widewater

Another item in rural survices director Russ Jassman’s report was the new park at the fire hall in Widewater. He said it has been seeded with grass, and if it rains, it might be up in time for a grand opening in July.

Board reports

Lesser Slave Watershed Council – Rosche reported another “lengthy discussion” at the most recent meeting on whether to eliminate the ‘commercial fishermen’ position on the board. Supporters of the status quo thought that this rep could be seen to speak for fisherpeople generally. The opposing view was that since commercial fishing no longer exists in Alberta, there’s no point in reserving a spot on the board for someone representing that interest group.
“In the end only three supported keeping that position,” Rosche said. “It’s going to the AGM for a bylaw change.”
Economic Development – Councillor Jeff Commins said with the LSLEA (Lesser Slave Lake Economic Alliance) folded up, the tri-council’s ec/dev group is going after its funding. In the meantime, the group has a strong focus on tourism promotion in the area. One way it is doing that is laying on ‘fam tours’ for frontline staff of area businesses, helping them get to know the attractions of the area so they can better answer visitors’ questions. Membership in the tourism group is up to 63, Commins added.

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