M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

April 28, 2021 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

May is census month

Reeve Murray Kerik started off council’s ‘committee of the whole’ meeting with a statement about the upcoming federal census. It’s important to be counted, he said, for a variety of reasons. One of them is that it helps the M.D. when it comes to securing population-based grants.

Ice surface in Smith

Council heard a report on ideas for installing an outdoor ice surface in Smith. SHARA is in favour and willing to put some money toward it, reported Barry Kolenosky. His report suggested a community consultation be done in the next few months, and a geo-technical study be undertaken.

Councillor Brad Pearson didn’t think the geo-tech study was necessary. He called it “throwing dust into the wind,” and said instead the M.D. should put up a pony wall, put boards on the inside of it and put water inside next winter.

“It doesn’t have to be the Taj Mahal,” he said. “Stage it.”

Councillor Robert Esau was opposed to putting any money into the project before the M.D. is sure what the community wants. Or even before finding out “what the next council wants.”

“Then we lose another year,” said councillor Becky Peiffer.

Council voted in favour of a motion to move ahead on the community consultation, with Esau opposed.

Corporate services: band-aid solutions

Nicole Archer, who started out with the M.D. as the HR person and seems to have added a few portfolios since, updated council on how things went in the first three months of the year in health and safety, information technology and human resources.

There were eight incidents or near misses recorded, Archer said, which she said isn’t bad.

On the HR side of things, nine positions have been filled in recent months.

When it comes to IT, the M.D. is facing an ‘end-of-life’ crunch. Five of its servers are past the warrantee date. The estimate for replacing them is $100,000.

“We put a lot of band-aids on things through the year,” said Archer, but “a band-aid’s got to come off eventually.”

Field services: gravel, floods, culverts, etc.

Lots going on here, including new road access to the M.D. gravel pit at Chisholm, reported the department director, Ryan Tufts. Part of the access previously was on a private road. Application for approval for an extension of the pit is in the works. The Flatbush pit’s life will extend further as well, thanks to an oil well on the site having been reclaimed.

Tufts’ report also touched on flood repairs in Marten Beach, and efforts to create a stock of sandbags.

Efforts to shore up an eroded bank on the Assineau River near the M.D. bridge last year were not successful, Tufts reported. The mass of added dirt and rocks have slid into the riverbed (photo). Tufts said it was poorly designed “and had no hope of succeeding.”

Councillor Peiffer asked about the re-decking of the bridge at Smith. The tender will be going out soon, Tufts said.

Councillor Pearson asked about a case of culvert failure in Canyon Creek. Tufts was unaware of it. Pearson recommended a check on all the upstream ends of culverts on the paved portion of South Shore Drive in that community.

“It costs us lots to repair the paved section once it fails,” he said.

Speaking of which, councillor Esau said in his end of the M.D., the compaction is terrible on lots of culverts. “You go over it with any kind of a load, you sink out of sight,” he said. “I was hoping it could be done right in the first place.”

Finance: unpaid accounts and tax sales

CAO Barb Miller talked about dealing with unpaid utility accounts. This might be the last M.D. in Alberta that hasn’t tied all such accounts to the property owner (as opposed to the renter). When the account is under the property owner’s name, the outstanding amounts can be transferred to the tax bill.

Insurance is up this year, Miller continued, mainly because the M.D. is taking over the marina and campground in Canyon Creek.

Councillor Esau asked if the tax sale of properties has taken place. It did, Miller said, for three properties, but nobody showed up. What could happen next is the M.D. can assume ownership via a tax forfeiture process, change the locks and put the houses on the market. The matter will come before council for a decision on that at a later date.

Animal control

The M.D.’s Domestic Animal Control Bylaw was updated just last year, but requires further tweaking. Before council was an updated version of the bylaw. This update was a result – or perhaps partly a result – of the bylaw being reviewed by a legal firm. Improvements were suggested and incorporated. It appeared the 2020 update (which was done to include cats) was not given legal review at the time, and “with litigation pending,” this was considered prudent.

Details on the litigation were not included in the report before council.

Councillors had some questions. One, from Robert Esau, had to do with proposed fines for a range of things a pet dog might do, up to and including killing a person.

“There should be a huge difference in penalty between a dog killing somebody and a dog chasing somebody,” he said.
Answer: In the former case, the RCMP would get involved and it would be a criminal matter.

Councillor Brad Pearson asked what would the enforcement strategy be when a person is ticketed for a pet behaving badly and just keeps paying the fines and nothing changes. Peace officer Paul Mulholland said he gives warnings about what could happen (a dog being taken away) on the second or third complaint. It rarely goes further than that, he said.
Mulholland also pointed out it’s only extreme cases that are going to end up being enforced.

“I’m not out there listening to every dog barking or measuring the length of your grass,” he said. “I’m looking at the one per cent that can’t live up to the minimum standard.”

Councillor Darcie Acton noted that “this entire re-write was triggered by incidents in the south shore,” and asked Mulholland if he feels it would be handled by the tools available in the bylaw. He said it does provide more clarity, calling it “a definite improvement.”

The updated bylaw will come before council at a regular meeting for final approval.

Rural services: harbour takeover

The big shiny item in this department is the assumption of control and responsibility for the Canyon Creek harbour and campground. Department head Russ Jassman said. By the time of the meeting, said his written report, “I am hopeful to have all of the transition documents signed. The actual operation for the 2021 season will be a steep learning curve for us all but nothing that is insurmountable.”

On the ag side of things, Jassman reported that a couple of weed/pest inspectors have been hired and roadside veg management contractor has been engaged. The team will “gear up for action” in the second week of May.

Special projects: Facilities, etc.

Rural special projects director Barry Kolenosky reported he is working with various community organizations on agreements for using M.D.-owned recreational facilities. These include the Canyon Creek Recreation Association, Smith Hondo Association of Recreation Agriculture Society (SHARA) and the Smith Traildusters. Maintenance upgrades are in process.

Waste management

Donning another of his hats, Kolenosky informed council the M.D. will be interviewing for the landfill manager position over the next week or two. Recycling is being looked into, as are fee structures and bylaws.

Testing for lead

This item was not on the agenda, but was raised by councillor Acton, by way of a question about whether volunteers were still needed for a lead-testing program.

The program starts this month and runs through September. Its goal is to have residents test the M.D. drinking water for lead. The letter sent out to residents says the water is lead-free when it leaves the water plant, but can pick up some of the harmful metal along the way.

Volunteers are asked to take samples, which will be picked up for testing by M.D. personnel.

Push-back

Councillor Acton, reporting on a recent zone meeting of the Rural Municpalities Association, said there was a presentation on the province’s proposed recall legislation. There is some pushback happening on behalf of smaller municipalities. Why? Because where populations are small, the 40 per cent of signatures needed to trigger recall of elected officials would be much easier to achieve.
“So they’re pushing back,” Acton said.

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