Nov. 14, 2018 meeting
SHARA president Fred Laughy was back to talk with council about what the organization has been doing and what should be done about a recent unfortunate waterline break caused by a sign installation project.
The breach happened when a contractor hired by SHARA put screw piles into the ground deeper than he should have. Laughy said SHARA had been advised where the waterline was, moved what seemed a safe distance back from that and then found out where it really was.
“We thought we were outside the danger area,” he said.
What the M.D. has to do, said reeve Murray Kerik, is decide “whether we’re going to share some of the responsibility.”
Laughy also provided some numbers on SHARA projects in recent months. The fall fair cost $35,000 and made $30,000, he said. A quad safety course for kids had 38 participants. Dust control in the arena cost $5,000. SHARA has $13,000 invested so far in the LED sign project (the one that interfered with the water line).
Laughy concluded by saying SHARA is looking forward to working with the M.D. on various projects, including upgrades to the arena.
CAO Allan Winarski told council a letter of support for the Marten Beach Cottagers Society has been sent. This is on a grant application by that group for help in paying for a flood mitigation study.
The M.D. is making progress on a solution to a schoolbus safety issue in the Wagner area. Winarski said a landowner is in favour of a proposal to have the bus go down a private drive and turn around, with loading and unloading of passengers off the highway. The turnaround will require a bit of work.
On the human resources front, the director of finance is leaving. Winarski said some interim coverage by the M.D.’s auditors has been arranged. A couple of candidates for the job have come forward.
On the planning & development front, work is being spread out over several staff members, who have been getting experience and training over the past year or two. Winarski anticipates difficulty in finding a qualified person to replace the departed manager of the department.
Winarski said the base budget is more or less done, and it shows a $5 million deficit.
“We’ll get it down to something sporting so you don’t have a heart attack when you see it,” he promised.
Councillor Brian Rosche asked about road damage in Wagner, and whether the contractor had fixed it.
“They’ve done some work,” said public works director Bill Klassen. “We’re just not signing off until it’s finished.”
Where is the Flatbush library?
Councillor Becky Peiffer asked if a sign or signs indicating the location of the library in Flatbush would be possible. She said a library board member tried and failed to find the library recently; finding an M.D. employee in the area, she asked for directions and that person said he (or she) didn’t know there was a library!
As for the sign on the highway, she said, “You have to be quick to see it.”
Winarski had an update on the progress in setting up agreements with all adjacent municipalities, as mandated by the provincial government. There are seven such neighbours in the case of Lesser Slave River.
This is a project that “nobody has time for,” Winarski said, yet somehow it has to get done.
Grants will help. These are available for the tougher agreements – with Westlock, Athabasca and Big Lakes Counties. Agreements with Northern Sunrise, Woodlands and Opportunity are expected to be easier, since there is only Crown land on the borders. Agreements with the Town of Slave Lake are already largely in place.
On the agenda was an item about the rumoured loss of postal service to small communities. Should the M.D. be doing anything about it?
“They’re proposing to move sorting from Smith to Slave Lake,” said Kerik. “So if you want to pick up a parcel you’d have to drive to Slave Lake. It’s ridiculous.”
Council accepted the report as information.
Peace officer decal
Council was asked to approve a newly-designed version of the decal that adorns the M.D. peace officer’s vehicle and uniform.
Why a new one? Winarski explained that when trying to order more decals, the supplier (and designer) of the existing one could not be reached. So the peace officer took the initiative to change the design and order decals from another supplier. The M.D. will hold the rights to the new design. What’s new about it is a different image in the middle of the crest (depicting water, sand and trees) and the addition of the ‘rugged and real’ motto.
Council gave it the thumbs up.
Trail maintenance questioned
Reviewing the recent cheque registry, an expenditure on trail maintenance caught the eye of one of the councillors. This is a $15,000 annual commitment to the upkeep of the M.D. portion of the section of Trans Canada Trail that runs from Moose Portage east along the north side of the Athabasca River.
“I have an issue with that,” said councillor Brian Rosche.
His issue was that the trail when he went on it earlier in the year was almost impassable. Plus the gateway at the bridge was too narrow for his side-by-side ATV.
Rosche said while he is very much in favour of trail development and maintenance, it doesn’t appear M.D. money is being well-spent on that piece of trail.
“Maybe it’s time we started asking what we’re getting for our money,” said councillor Brad Pearson.
“Last year we had roads we could hardly get through,” said councillor Esau.
Farming out assessment appeals
Council accepted a proposal to turn appeals on property value assessment over to the Capital Region Assessment Services Commission. The lack of volunteers for such a panel in the M.D., plus onerous training requirements led to the recommendation.
“I don’t think outsourcing it is a bad idea,” said councillor Pearson. “We’re not losing autonomy.”
Green light to zoning change on Old Smith Highway
Council gave second and third readings to a Land-use Bylaw amendment that paves the way for a property owner to set up a trucking company shop on a piece of land on the Old Smith Highway. It required a change from a Country Residential designation to Light Industrial Residential.
The decision followed a public hearing, at which nobody spoke against the proposal. However, letters from two of the neighbours were received and read into the record. One favoured the zoning change; the other was against it.
Councillors were all on side.
“In my mind this fits like a hand in a glove,” said councillor Esau.
Council accepted a proposal for names for two roads in the Diamond North subdivision, near Marten Beach. The names are ‘Diamond Drive’ and ‘Driftwood Bay.’
“It moves them that much closer to finishing their subdivision,” said Winarski.
Ag Service Board – The Fall Social went well, reported councillor Melzer. Councillor Esau said no clubroot of canola was found in the M.D. this year.
“The new varieties are really paying off,” he said.
“Not every field was sampled,” Melzer cautioned.
“It’s not an issue for the future in my opinion,” said Esau.
SL Regional Housing – No requisition increase for the fifth year in a row, reported councillor Pearson. There are 126 units in the portfolio in Slave Lake, and they are being fixed up.
Councillor Commins said the proposed new affordable apartment complex will likely be fewer units than earlier proposed (20 as opposed to 40). When it gets built, the same number of older properties will be disposed of.
Library board – Councillor Peiffer said most of what was taken in a break-in at the Flatbush Library has been replaced.
“Break-in?” said councillor Pearson.
“It wasn’t enough to go through insurance,” said Peiffer.
Tri-Council Health – There’s a drive to boost public confidence, said Peiffer. “They want to promote childbirth in Slave Lake.”
The hospital is looking for occupational and physio therapists.
Award ceremony – Reeve Kerik said he’d attended a ceremony in Edmonton at which Sheila Willis of Smith received provincial recognition for her work in promoting history in northern Alberta. It was “a nice affair,” he said. An unexpected side benefit, Kerik continued, was running into the Minister of Municipal Affairs Shaye Anderson that night in the bar (the NDP was having a meeting in the same hotel) and bending his ear for a few hours.
“He asked lots of good questions,” Kerik said. “It was good.”