M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

Sept. 8, 2021 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

‘Proof is in the pudding’

The first item on CAO Chad Tullis’s report for council was the surge in COVID-19 numbers. As of the day before, there were 69 cases in the M.D. – 40 of those in the Wabasca area. He also mentioned the fact that most of the new cases were contracted by people who have not been vaccinated, or who are under-vaccinated.
“I guess the proof is in the pudding,” Tullis said.

Back to Zoom?

Following up on the above item, deputy reeve Everett Gottfried brought up the question of council meeting format.
“We’re probably going to have to go back to Zoom meetings,” he said.
The group discussed the possibility of using different spaces where safe distances could be maintained.
“We’ll continue to have the Zoom option,” said Tullis

Red Earth hall project

Councillor Gottfried made a point of mentioning a $3 million provincial contribution for the new community hall project in Red Earth Creek. Council heard the start of construction on that project has been delayed a bit, but will be going ahead soon.

Halls in Trout and Peerless

Responding to an item in the rec & culture report, councillor Louie Cardinal suggested Peerless-Trout First Nation could maybe be asked to look after the cleaning of the halls, after events. The First Nation is apparently not interested in taking over the rentals for the halls, but they might be willing to hire some casual staff for cleaning, he said.
CAO Tullis said the M.D. is proposing that PTFN lease the halls from the M.D.

Help for trapping courses

The Alberta Treaty 8 Trappers Association had requested the M.D. waive the rental fee for the Sandy Lake hall for two trapping courses it plans to hold there in October and November. The courses are for youth and adults who want to try trapping, or who may want to take over a family trap line.
Angela Lightning, making the report, said the cost to the group would be around $2,000.
M.D. policy does not allow for such fee waivers, council heard. On the other hand, FCSS grants of up to $1,500 are possible.
Gottfried made a motion to grant the whole $2,000, which was carried.

Recognition dinner support

A recognition dinner for a former store owner in Peerless and Trout Lake is being planned. The organizer had requested a $1,500 donation from the M.D. to help cover the costs.
The dinner is being put on for Steve Anderson, who for 40 years ran grocery stores in both Trout and Peerless. Council heard he is now a resident of the long-term care unit in Slave Lake.
Both councillors Cardinal and Leo Alook spoke up in favour of the M.D. helping out.

Mixed feelings on support for anniversary event

Council discussed a request for M.D. financial support for a 50-year anniversary event. Eighty to 100 guests are expected at an M.D. community hall, and the request was for hall rental to be waived.
Councillor Gottfried said he was concerned about the possibility of COVID spread via such an event. Should the M.D. be supporting such things at this time?
Not only that, the M.D.’s policy allows hall rental waivers only for funerals and wakes.
Another suggestion was a straight donation. The debate went back and forth. Eventually council merely accepted the report as information.

Rec subsidy

Council looked favourably upon a request for rec facility pass discounts from a Bigstone Cree Nation addictions counselor. Gottfried told his colleagues the idea is that having the passes would “give them something to do (clients in the addictions counselling program).”
“I think it’s a great idea,” said councillor Jackson, supporting the idea.
Gottfried suggested a 25 per cent discount, which was approved by a resolution.

Road improvements at Trout Lake

Council dealt with a request for a contribution from the M.D. for gravel for a campground access road in Trout Lake. The campground is run by a local society, not by the M.D. Council approved a $1,000 expenditure.

Properties up for tax auction

Council approved the reserve bid amounts for a dozen properties that are due to go to auction to recover unpaid taxes. Those amounts will be as close as possible to the market value, council heard.
The list of properties in the agenda package was actually 14 in number, but two were off the table by the time of the meeting. Of the original 14, seven are in Wabasca and five in Red Earth Creek, with one each in Calling Lake and Sandy Lake.
The auction date was set for Sept. 14, 2021.

Health care developments

Two physicians have accepted full-time roles in Wabasca, council heard from director of corporate services Gerhard Stickling. However, their arrival could be three to six months off, depending on how long it takes them to go through the qualification process.
Otherwise, a new nurse practitioner is on the job in Wabasca. One has been promised for Red Earth Creek as well, and councillor Brendan Powell made a point of asking when that will happen.
“It’s hard to get a commitment on that,” Stickling said.
“I can see where this is going,” said Powell.

Blind corners

Blind corners on Hwy. 686 continue to be a problem. Councillor Louie Cardinal asked about the status of a brushing project to improve sight lines.
“It’s supposed to be done this summer,” he said.
Later this fall, said Tullis.
Powell suggested it might be put off until the ground is frozen, due to some wet spots making access difficult.

Vegetation management contracts

The M.D. has five different FireSmart vegetation managements up for bids. Council approved the recommendation from admin. in a couple of cases; in others, the lowest bid was over budget. Admin. is to negotiate to see if they could end up with something more in line with the budget.

Road re-naming request

Council re-visited the request from a family to re-name Moonshine Drive in Wabasca after George D. Auger, who is described in the report as “the last First Nations veteran living in Wabasca.”
Councillor Gottfried, although in favour of honouring Auger, said it might be better to name something else after him. Perhaps a park, or another street with fewer residences on it.
Council asked that the matter go back to administration for further recommendations.

Fire guard fencing

The M.D. received two bids on the fencing job for the new Wabasca fire guard. Both were under the budgeted amount of $359,000 and within $2,500 of each other. Both were also notably submitted after the deadline – one by four hours and one by four minutes, council heard.
Councillor Gottfried suggested splitting the work so both contractors could get some of it. Council had decided something similar on another job recently. Since the fencing is in two distinct spots, council agreed, and awarded the bigger chunk to the lower of the two bidders, with the other one getting the smaller section.
On the Red Earth Creek fire guard fencing, only one bid was received. It was also slightly under budget. Council voted to award it to the lone bidder, for the amount of $380,000.

Request for space for a tower

A company bringing a fibre optic line into Calling Lake has formally requested land from the M.D. to situate its tower. Only a small fraction of an acre is required. Council discussed different possibilities, including asking the proponent for free access to the line for more than one M.D. facility. The matter will go back to administration for further research and negotiation.

Mud bog location

A group wanting to put on a mud bog event has approached the M.D. looking for input on where it might be located. Council went back and forth on the matter – with several sites suggested all with pros and cons. Like the previous item, council wanted more information before making a decision.

Encouraging news

Gottfried had an enthusiastic report from a recent meeting of the Wabasca Desmarais Housing Authority’s with a management group. The authority is contemplating a management agreement for the new seniors’ lodge in Wabasca. Gottfried described it as “a positive meeting,” that left him feeling hopeful about the prospects for recruitment and training as well as getting funding from Alberta Health Services.

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