M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Oct. 14, 2020 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Council’s meeting began with a get-together with the people who look after the M.D.’s website. Sean and Karen represent Tangent Civic (the company formerly known as Bleed, Rdeca, etc.). A new version of the website is in order, said Sean. The way things are going with content management, he said, “if we don’t do something significant,” the M.D. will be looking at “diminishing returns.”
That said, the new version has been launched, kinks and all.
“We’re working really hard to keep the M.D. punching above its weight class,” he said.
The frustrating subject of rural addresses came up, inevitably. Addresses entered into an internet search engine do not show up at all or where they are supposed to. Robert Esau told a story about an ambulance called to an address in the Flatbush area ended up somewhere around Whitecourt! In another example, councillor Sandra Melzer said an ambulance stopped at her house, asking for directions to an address, because the internet couldn’t find it.
Councillor Darcie Acton pointed out that the planning and development department of the M.D. is working on those issues. The address information has been submitted to Google, she said. In any case, emergency services in the area have other ways of finding addresses – notably one called ‘MuniSight.’

Positive items
Acting CAO Barry Kolenosky started off his report with what he called ‘top positive items.’ At the top of the list was the fact that tax collection went well in September, with $7.3 million coming in.
Next on the list is news that a company is interested in a gas liquification plant at Mitsue.
In Smith, the Gentle Ben Care Society has been working with the M.D. to set up a food program to help needy families. It will operate out of the community centre in Smith.
In the flood mitigation area, Kolenosky said Alberta Environment & Parks was on site surveying Marten Beach. A related news item is about recently-announced grant programs for (among other things) flood mitigation.
“Administration is investigating these grant opportunities,” said Kolenosky.

Grader burns
On the ‘not-so-positive-news’ side of things, a brand new grader caught fire and was damaged. A replacement unit has been acquired at the supplier’s expense, council heard. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
“At first they thought it was electrical,” Kolenosky said, but now they think it might be something else.

Animal control facility? Still in the works
Councillor Darcie Acton asked if the holding pen for stray pets council approved has been set up, or purchased. Councillor Becky Peiffer had an answer.
“ARC (Animal Rescue Committee) has a proposal,” she said. “It will hopefully be in our agenda for next meeting.”

Toboggan hill
The Widewater toboggan hill continues to develop. Kolenosky said Tolko has offered some soil material to cover the hill, and for a ‘deceleration berm.’

Road closure
This item had already been discussed at length by council a few week ago. The owner of the property in the Athabina area (near Flatbush) would like to purchase an unused (and apparently unusable) road allowance and close it off. The matter was deferred and now council was being asked to set a date for a public hearing on the closure. This was done by way of a 5 – 1 vote in favour of the motion. Opposing it was councillor Brad Pearson, who said he is against closing road allowances on principle. Leasing it he’d be okay with, Pearson said, and the landowner could go ahead and fence it.
“We know what happened in Canyon Creek (Courtorielle Rd.),” he said.
Councillor Melzer took the opposite view.
“This will never be used as a road,” she said, adding that the closure and sale would allow the owner to develop the property in ways that couldn’t happen otherwise.
Reeve Murray Kerik was in favour of the closure.
“Normally I’m pretty wary of road closures,” he said. “But here, it’s an unusable piece of land. He has hunters walking through his property. It’s a gong show.”

Extra crushing
The M.D.’s gravel pit in Flatbush is “almost depleted,” said Ryan Tufts, the M.D.’s operations manager. The contractor crushing there this year has proposed extending its work this fall by scraping up the remaining material around the edges and crushing it for the same price per tonne as in the existing contract. It would defer payment to 2021. The written report for council recommended this as worth pursuing, because otherwise it would likely go to waste. Tufts likened the procedure of retrieving this last amount of gravel as “a spatula around a bowl.” The estimate on the cost is $30,000. Council passed a motion approving the job for “up to $50,000.”

Smith bridge resurfacing
The bridge over the Athabasca River at Smith is due for a re-hab job on its wooden deck. Bids on the job ranged from $17,000 to $57,000 on an item budgeted at $55,000. Council accepted the recommendation to award the contract to Paveit Construction of Slave Lake, for $21,025.
The work is supposed to take place this year, with some disruption of traffic expected.
There are lots of other issues with the bridge, which Tufts included in his written report for council. Put briefly, at 75 years old, the structure is due for total replacement. The estimated cost is $16 million.
Councillor Acton asked what the longer-term strategy is for replacement of such vital infrastructure. Tufts says he was “dying to get into,” that task and hopes to have something started later in the year.
“We’re talking huge sums of money,” he said. “It’s been deferred and deferred. The chickens are eventually going to come home to roost on this.”

Photo courtesy MD of LSR

West Mitsue culvert replacement
Council awarded the contract to replace a ‘minor culvert’ under the West Mitsue Road to Avid Energy Services of Slave Lake. The road has been slumping above the culvert and it is expected to keep happening. So time for a replacement. The contract amount is $34,840, which was the lowest of three bids.

This and that in the world of water
Tufts informed council the M.D. has had four ‘main’ breaks in the past few weeks, including a couple of sewer lines in the south shore area. He called it “an alarming trend,” and said “our guys have been running ragged.”
Councillor Esau brought up a ditching project near Flatbush that he said had not been finished. Tufts said he would look into it.

‘Known risk’ policy
Certain people or places in the M.D. pose a greater risk than usual to the safety of the M.D. peace officer if he has to pay a visit. How these are dealt with is now in an M.D. policy.
In general, said peace officer Paul Mulholland, “You treat every traffic stop as if you are in danger. Same with a house visit. Even more so.”
Council approved a slightly amended version of the ‘Known Risk Policy,’ as prepared and presented by Mulholland.
“It’s something we need to put in place to satisfy the Solicitor General,” Mulholland told council.

Athabasca Regional Waste – unfriendly numbers
Councillor Melzer reported some unwelcome news; population numbers in Athabasca County, for requisition purposes, may be 1,200 less than what the last census came up with. At least that’s what the county is telling the waste commission. So instead of 5,200 residents, it’s something closer to 4,000. If that’s the number, the way the municipal contribution to the waste commission’s budget is calculated would shift, adding about 17 per cent to the cost per resident.
But it might not work out that way. Councillor Esau said “there’s a bunch of work to do there. Lots of moving parts.”

SL Chamber of Commerce
Councillor Acton said the first ‘in-person’ Chamber meeting since last February was well-attended and “quite refreshing.” Among the items discussed was Small Business Week, with programs being online. The Moonlight Madness event is looming, and the Chamber is “looking for ideas about how to make it happen and be compliant with COVID.”
(The Chamber subsequently announced the event will go ahead on Nov. 20, with a parade, a ‘Christmas window contest’ giveaways and ‘More details to come!’)

LS Regional Waste
Councillor Pearson’s report included the news that the appointment of Barry Kolenosky of the M.D. as the manager was “a godsend” for the landfill. Other news: An amount of ‘off-spec’ OSB from Tolko has been chipped, at a cost of $35,000, and will be used as cover.
“We haven’t been broken into in a while,” said Pearson. Budgeting has been a struggle, he added, but “It’s looking not too bad. We got our legs under us again.”

Saving parks
Councillor Acton mentioned she had spoken to a member of a group advocating on behalf of several provincial recreation areas that are on a government list to be de-funded. Most people in the group are from Athabasca, she said, but the three rec areas are in the M.D. of Lesser Slave River. The goals of the group, she said, “are very much in line with our resolution, with respect to keeping the BCBC (Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation) open. It’s really nice to see a grass roots group come together. They are not foreign-funded left-wing extremists.”
Council was to discuss the matter further in camera. But before they did, councillor Esau noted that the province is talking about allocating more timber to mills.
“Unless they’ve pulled it out of parks,” he said, “I don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Library board
The board has awarded a Legacy Scholarship to Colbin Burnett, councillor Peiffer reported. This scholarship was set up by the committee that created the book on the Slave Lake fire and turned it over to the library board last year.
Moving along, Peiffer said the board is talking about a sign or signs on the highway to let people know where the library in Flatbush is located. Word is that there is “still a lot of uncertainty” about its location.
“Maybe we (M.D. council) could look at that again,” she said.
As for the library at Smith, it’s “all going good,” Peiffer said.

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