June 29, 2021 meeting
Council’s special meeting last week was mainly to discuss the 2021 capital budget. Several items of work were proposed, for addition to what’s already been approved. Council approved around $700,000 in additional projects. Some of the discussions about them follow:
Canyon Creek water/sewer upgrades
Various improvements are needed to components of the raw water intake system at Canyon Creek. The items to be improved total $130,000.
Another $30,000 is budgeted for asphalt or concrete aprons at the sewage treatment plant. Trucks delivering chemicals are sinking in, council heard.
This item raised a few hackles. What’s being proposed is a study first, then an action plan. But councillor Brad Pearson was having none of that.
“Why are we studying it?” he asked. “There’s a ditch that’s not working. Let’s clean it out. Don’t study it.”
CAO Barb Miller stuck with the recommendation. The landscape may have changed (through development).
“Why spend time and money when we don’t know?” she said.
“It’s a hill,” Pearson said. “Don’t study it.”
Councillor Sandra Melzer countered with an example from Flatbush, where local ‘expertise’ on drainage turned out to be wrong. It took an actual expert to figure out how and where it should be draining.
“Water runs downhill,” was Pearson’s response.
Councillor Robert Esau expressed (not for the first time) his skepticism of engineers and engineering. On the other hand, he said a drainage plan should be complete, “not willy nilly.”
The proposed study would be, council heard, for a broader area than the particular overgrown ditch that is the current source of headaches.
Outdoor rink for Smith
The $40,000 proposed for this year’s budget would not be to actually build the rink, but to continue looking into its feasibility. This involves consultation with community members on what they actually want, special projects manager Barry Kolenosky told council.
“We need to see if the community is supportive,” he said. “If not, I guess we shelve it.”
If it is supported, Kolenosky sees it as a “staged approach,” which will probably involve “extending the existing pad.”
Councillor Esau said he doesn’t remember council approving the project.
What you approved, said Kolenosky, was a concept plan. And to take it back to the community “and find out if they approve a staged process.”
At that, Esau said he’d like an in-camera session to discuss a local improvement tax.
New mowers are budgeted at $35,000. The M.D. has four, Kolenosky reported, and three of them aren’t working at the moment. They are all getting old and “have run their course,” he said.
Machines could be leased at about $3,000 per month, but “it doesn’t make much sense.”
Purchasing is recommended.
Non-compliance in Canyon Creek
Council was introduced to Donna Cross, the new manager of utilities for the M.D. In her first report for council, Cross dealt with a sticky situation in Canyon Creek. A water line has sprung a leak, she said, and it revealed a situation that has long been non-compliant. A long-ish connector line off the main has three feeds to private property off it. The M.D. bylaw stipulates one line should serve just one property.
Cross assured council she’s not saying anyone deliberately broke the rules back in 1987. They might even have gotten I.D. permission. But it’s come to light and is clearly non-compliant.
Canyon Creek Winks is the one at the end of that line, Cross said. The owners, “don’t feel they should be paying for any of this. They’re going to be asking for some kind of help.”
Not hot about hot oil
Oil treatments of gravel roads for dust control purposes is something the M.D. has been experimenting with, as an alternative to the standard calcium chloride. Councillor Pearson asked how the Ranch Road application has been going.
“Right off the bat we had complaints,” said councillor Esau, adding that the oil wasn’t distributed evenly. In some places it wasn’t an inch deep, he said.
Then there’s a “vocal opponent” of the oil treatment in the Wagner area, as reported by councillor Acton. The smell of the oil is at least one of the reasons for the opposition.
Views on regional collaboration
This topic was on the minds of councillors, having met with the regional tri-council just a day or two earlier. No decisions about it were made, but plenty of opinions expressed. There is a standard leeriness among councillors about what a commitment to collaboration might cost the M.D. And a general feeling that while being on good terms is desirable, the M.D. must ‘paddle its own canoe.’
On the more skeptical end of the spectrum of opinion is councillor Robert Esau. We have the assets, he said, and the town gets the profits.
Not true, countered councillor Acton, a supporter of what she called “the tri-council process.“
“It bothers me to hear we need to go our own way. I don’t see that in the cards.”
Reeve Murray Kerik, who has enjoyed notably good relations with the Slave Lake mayor and Sawridge chief since a natural disaster brought them together in 2011, is in favour of the advocacy part of regional collaboration. But not of spending money on projects.
“They want money,” said Pearson.
“They’re not going to get it,” said Kerik, He followed up by echoing former CAO Allan Winarski’s contention that the M.D. already does its bit for regional economic development by “providing the environment” (keeping its taxes low, for example).
More regional collaboration
Something new in the regional collaboration line is a group of five municipalities and five First Nations and Métis colonies getting together to talk about ways to work together for the benefit of the region.
“It seems to be gaining a bit of traction,” Kerik said, adding there is government support for such initiatives.
What the M.D. needs to do is appoint somebody in addition to the reeve to represent the M.D. at the quarterly meetings. Councillor Becky Peiffer accepted the appointment.
Councillor Pearson, true to form, said he’d like to know what the mandate of the group is.
“Is there money involved?” he asked.
“Shouldn’t be,” said Kerik. “It’s a lobbying outfit.”
The M.D.’s Municipal Planning Commission recently met and discussed the case of a residential development that it wants to bring back into compliance. It seems the developer was given permission to not register any lots until he sells them, thus avoiding property taxes.
“That’s not the right way to do it,” said Kerik. “He should register them and then come to council if he wants to ask for (tax relief).”
Riparian remediation – otherwise known as fixing things in or near a streambed – is being contemplated for a spot in Nine Mile Creek. Councillor Acton said the Lesser Slave Watershed Council has engaged an engineering firm to look at the remnants of a bridge structure, and make recommendations for its removal.
“If it works,’ said reeve Kerik, “we should be looking at Canyon. That stuff should all be coming out of there, too.”
The stuff at Canyon Creek are timbers left over from a long-ago pier, established by the federal government as part of its fish hatchery operation.