M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Nov. 10, 2020

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Supporting community groups
Council took a break and reconvened as the Community Assistance Board (CAB), with Brad Pearson as chair. It heard requests for financial assistance from four community groups and approved all four.

Flatbush Silver Threads Society asked for $1,271.78 to help cover the cost of running its building – mainly utilities and insurance.

Flatbush Community Association had applied for two grants; $1,000 for a commemorative marker at the old Athabina School site and $2,400 towards the cost of Christmas decorations for the hamlet.

Southshore Children’s Association asked for $2,000 to purchase a laminator and other supplies for an arts and crafts project.

The CAB had $40,000 to give away in 2020. With the above contributions the budget is down to $2,606.

“I think we’re helping a lot of need in our communities,” said Pearson.

COVID response support
Acting CAO Barry Kolenosky informed council the M.D. will be getting a grant to help cover extra costs incurred in dealing with the COVID pandemic. It’s called ‘MOST’ which stands for Municipal Operating Support Transfer and is a federal and provincial program. Kolenosky did not say how much money is involved.

Also in Kolenosky’s report was the news the M.D. is hiring a couple of support staff for the main office. One is a receptionist, to replace somebody moving into another position; the other is a six-month position in the finance department to help staff “get through our mountain of issues.”

Holiday plans
Kolenosky said in light of COVID, the usual Christmas celebration wasn’t going to happen. The alternate plan is to prepare gift bags or baskets for all staff. The idea of closing the M.D. offices between Christmas and Jan. 1 is also being proposed. It’s something the provincial government does, he said, as well as some municipalities. It would amount to three or four working days. Council gave its blessing.

M.D. staff is making plans for an entry in the Nov. 20 Christmas parade in Slave Lake. Reeve Murray Kerik joked that he’s worried about that, because, “Peggy wanted to know if I’m comfortable in tights.”

Kolenosky: “She asked me that too. I’m not going there!”

Meeting the MLA (again)
Meetings with Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn seem to be happening quite often. Another one was coming up, and again, council discussed what topics they should bring up in the meeting.

“We’ve got to hit them again on pavement,” said Kerik, “because nothing is happening.”

Other topics: the Boreal Centre closure, Marten Beach flood mitigation.

How about beach clean-up, asked councillor Pearson. “I’d like to talk to them about who’s responsible to get those creosote timbers removed (at Canyon Creek).”

Added Pearson: “I’d like to know what he’s working on.”

Kerik: “And what we can do to help.”

Plan for sewage pumps
Sewer pump troubleshooter Brian Vance was next up. He was presenting a new policy on grinder pumps and a new utility rates bylaw.

Proposed in the new bylaw is the option for residents to switch to a Liberty brand pump, with a five-year warranty. The other option is to stick with a rebuilt e-One pump with a one-year warranty.

Also proposed was an installment payment plan.

The new policy on pumps, among other things, calls for residents to ensure “adequate access” to the pump for M.D. staff.

Councillor Acton asked to what extent the Liberty pumps have been tested in the M.D. environment. Vance said a dozen or so are out there now. There has been trouble with only one of them.

“I’m impressed or surprised how many people want them,” he said, “even though they cost more.”

Hook-up costs
Councillor Becky Peiffer asked for clarification on what “the extra $500” on a water hook-up in Smith was for. The customer had been under the impression the fee was $500, but when the bill came it was for $1,000. Calls to the office did not produce an answer.

Vance said he’d have to check and would check. The $500 is an administration fee, he said. If there are additional costs, they would be added. But it should have been itemized on the bill.

Councillor Pearson is all for the customer paying.

“We can’t go in the hole every time somebody wants to hook up to water,” he said.

Recent failures
Director of Transportation and Utilities Ryan Tufts reported on a couple of failures in the water supply system that caused some headaches and highlighted some challenges. One was a valve broke in a hydrant flushing operation in the Mitsue Industrial Park. It resulted in “a geyser coming out of the ground.”

The system had to be shut down, which affected customers in the area.

“It speaks to the need to proactively replace those valves,” he said.

Moving on, Tufts spoke about a minor water leak in Smith that is “almost impossible to locate” at this time of year.

‘Fatberg’ clogs Smith pipe
Also cropping up in Smith recently was the dreaded ‘fatberg’ in the sewer line. Apparently it was in a portion of the line that hasn’t been flushed as often as it needs to be, due to relative inaccessibility. Congealed grease and other stuff was the culprit.

Tufts said when emergencies arise, the utilities staff has to respond. It can have unintended effects, such as leaving the Canyon Creek water plant unattended.

Airport Commission
Councillor Melzer reported that the commission is thinking of asking the town and M.D. for $25,000 more apiece. The last increase was five years ago, she said, and that was from $30,000 each to the current $100,000 municipal contributions.

One thing that extra money might be needed for is remediation at the lake end of the runway. Thanks to high water this year, the airport land suffered erosion, said councillor Acton. And whatever the solution might be, it won’t be cheap.

“The environmental engineering part of it could get costly,” she said.

Tri-Council health advisory committee
Reeve Kerik reported that a ninth physician will be starting at the Family Care Clinic in Slave Lake soon. In addition, one nurse practitioner will be returning to duty. In both cases, it will make for a full complement.
“They may look at opening up Saturdays and evenings again,” he said.

Zooming with deputy minister
Kerik said he was quite pleased with a recent meeting (by Zoom) with a deputy minister (or maybe ‘the’ deputy minister) of Alberta Environment and Parks.

“I think something’s going to happen,” he said. About what he didn’t say.

Councillor Acton said she had followed up with an Alberta Parks official and agreed “we might be getting somewhere,” on the matter of the winter months closure of the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation.

“Nobody said ‘yes,’” she said. “But nobody said ‘go away,’ either.”

‘Not that we’re cynical’
Councillor Acton mentioned rural broadband in connection with a recent announcement of an investment by the federal government aimed at improving it.

Kerik seemed to think nothing will come of it.

“It’ll go to Calgary and Edmonton and Strathmore,” he said. “Not that we’re cynical.”

“They should give money to local providers,” said councillor Melzer.

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