Jan. 13, 2021 meeting
Behind closed doors
Council’s Jan. 13 meeting started off with councillors discussing whether a couple of additions to the agenda should be handled in open or closed session. One – raised by councillor Darcie Acton – was her report on a couple of recent meetings with the Marten Beach flood committee. The other was councillor Robert Esau’s item, having to do with people from Westlock County using the Flatbush waste transfer station.
On the first item, reeve Murray Kerik’s opinion was that council had “better discuss it in camera first.”
Acton: “It’s hard to communicate with stakeholders if we do it in camera.”
On the transfer station issue, Kerik had the same opinion: closed session. “I have a few comments on it,” he said.
Sayonara to ASPs
Council began the process of repealing seven or eight area structure plans (ASP), following a recommendation from the consultant working on a revamp of the M.D.’s Land-Use Bylaw (LUB). The plans are now obsolete and merely interfere with what the M.D. is trying to accomplish with the new LUB.
Council heard this and more from consultant Nick Pryce of V3.
“It’s a complete overhaul,” Pryce said.
Council gave first reading to bylaws that will repeal the Mitsue Lake Industrial Park, Lesser Slave River, McDonald, Smith, Marten Beach, Southshore and Poplar Lane Area Structure Plans.
Public hearings on each of these bylaw changes are scheduled for Feb. 10.
Update on animal control
M.D. peace officer Paul Mulholland updated council on what’s been happening since the M.D.’s new bylaw on animal control came into effect in August. One charge has been issued to date and several complaints investigated.
The charge was under section 6.6 of the bylaw. It’s against somebody who trapped a cat. Pets are the property of the owner, Mulholland told council. As such, it’s illegal to deprive people of their property.
“If someone sets out to take possession of somebody else’s pet, I have to act on that,” he said. “We have to let our residents know they’re not part of enforcement.”
How the courts regard the issue is another question. The M.D. is expecting to find that out in the above case, Mulholland said.
In other news, the M.D.’s contract with the Animal Rescue Committee for taking care of caught cats is taking longer than expected to get underway. ARC has been delayed in setting up the cat kennels.
When it is in full swing, it will cost the M.D. $150 for six days of care for each cat. On the other hand, owners who show up to claim cats will face a $100 per day impound fee.
Council accepted a recommendation to write-off $5,600 in bad debts. Council was reminded that in doing so, the people owing the money aren’t absolved from the debt. The M.D.’s collection agency will see what it can do.
Speaking of the collection agency, finance coordinator Wanda Sinclair told council 35 accounts had been turned over, resulting in collections on seven of them. The agency gets 25 per cent of what it collects and the M.D. gets the rest.
Another recommendation for council was to cancel $340,149 in uncollectable property taxes from oil and gas companies on numerous properties. The M.D. should be able to get $60,800 of that back under the Provincial Education Requisition Credit (PERC) program.
Seventy-two of the properties belong to one company (not named).
Tax sale bids set
Council approved a set of reserve bids for properties slated for tax recovery auction. Fourteen properties, at this point, are facing this fate. The date for the sale is March 23.
Typically, most owners end up making payment arrangements before the sale date. They have until 10 a.m. on that day to do that.
Also typically, properties that get to the point of tax sale have been in arrears in their property taxes for three or four years.
Reserve bid values on the properties range from $120,000 (farmland in the Flatbush area) to $400,000 (a Southshore property).
Council approved the closure of a piece of undeveloped road right of way near the Pembina River. It wasn’t unanimous, with councillor Pearson maintaining his objection in principle.
Closing a road (even if it isn’t one) is not a simple thing to do. A public hearing must be held, and was. It resulted in no opposition to the closure, and two letters in support of it.
“I would like the record to show that I disagree with any right of way sold,” said Pearson. “The grid system shouldn’t be tampered with.”
Reeve Kerik spoke up in favour of it. The piece of land in question “is no good to anybody except the adjacent landowner.”
“I agree,” said councillor Sandra Melzer. “It’s of no benefit to the community.”
Councillor Robert Esau was also in favour, but not in favour of the proposed surveying of the site as part of the closure process.
“I just see no value,” he said. “It’s already a registered entity.”
The matter now goes to Edmonton for ministerial approval.
Smith lagoon to get a new liner
A waste water lagoon in Smith is leaking and needs to be fixed. Council was asked to make a decision to spend the money. It’s estimated to be a $2.4 million job, with the M.D. on the hook for $920,000 of it.
The job is to replace the leaky clay liner with a synthetic one.
Director of field services Ryan Tufts, making the report, said discharge into the Athabasca River is okay; what’s not okay is the leakage showing up in the groundwater around the lagoon.
“We’re not allowed to do that,” he said.
Councillor Pearson asked if there would be any disruption in service.
“That seems likely,” said Tufts.
“There might be a day or so,” added reeve Kerik.
Despite the decision to discuss the juicy details in camera, councillor Acton presented three items picked up from a recent meeting with the Marten Beach Flood Committee.
- The need for regular communication with the M.D.
- The need for council to make a decision on flood mitigation
- Encouraging the M.D. to apply for more grants.
“The flood committee is keen to work with council,” Acton said, “and have offered to do heavy lifting if required.”
“It would be nice if they could point out these grants they say are available,” said Kerik.
‘Evolving slowly to nowhere’
In his report on the Slave Lake Regional Housing Authority, councillor Pearson shared the good news that no cases of COVID have appeared at the lodge in Slave Lake. Otherwise, business pretty much as usual he said. As for the much-delayed ‘new build’ for Slave Lake it is “evolving slowly towards going nowhere, possibly,” Pearson said.
In other housing news, councillor Melzer said a new 40-unit complex in Morinville will be opening in February.
Councillor Acton reported the appointment of new member Srini Jayaraman to the commission. Phoenix Fence gets the contract for a perimeter fence – expected to be done in the spring.
“Expect an increased requisition,” Acton added.
Councillor Esau added that the fencing job faces problems at the lake end of the airport property.
“We lost a pile of shoreline last summer,” he said.