M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

Feb. 9, 2022 meeting (continued)

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Bantam hockey request for support

The organizer of a Bantam (U15) hockey team going to the Alberta Native Provincials had asked the M.D. for $2,500 to help the team cover associated expenses. Those expenses include ice time for practices at the arena in Wabasca, council heard, because Wabasca Minor Hockey wasn’t covering them.

The reason for that, explained director of recreation and culture Angela Lightning, is that no Bantam team registered for the regular season with Wabasca Minor Hockey Association (WMH). As such, this recently-organized team, not belonging to WMH, gets no breaks on ice time.

The request was for the M.D. to waive the ice fees, plus provide a donation to help with the costs of attending the tournament, which is the first weekend in April in Edmonton.

The main drawback for the M.D. said the written report, was that by policy, the M.D. does not have money for recreation or sports grants. But such policies haven’t stopped council before, and this time was no exception.

“We can’t punish the kids,” said councillor Darlene Jackson, adding that what got them into the situation they find themselves in was M.D. rules in the first place. Those had to do with vaccination requirements.

A note of caution was sounded by councillor Brendan Powell. If other teams that want to go to the same tournament ask for the same treatment, how much would it end up costing the M.D.? It could be as much as $10,000, said reeve Marcel Auger.

Council approved a Tahirih Wiebe motion to grant $1,000 for ice fees and $1,500 for tournament expenses to the applicants.

Money for Métis Local

The Wabasca Métis Local #90 had requested $35,000 from the M.D. to help it cover the cost of providing services to its members. According to the report in council’s agenda package, these include help in preparation of resumés, membership applications, document completion, employment training and tax returns.

“Seems like a lot of money,” said councillor Powell. “I don’t know if it’s something we should be funding.”

Director of finance Trina Mineault told council the grants account has only $24,000 left in it, but again, that did not seem to be an obstacle. CAO Chad Tullis told council “there should be money to cover it,” should council decide it wants to grant the request.

Council did.

“They provide good services to residents,” said councillor Robin Guild, making the motion. The vote was in favour, but was not unanimous.

More money for Métis Local

Council followed up by approving a further $23,000 to Métis Local #90, topping up the contracted amount on a debris-disposal contract on the Wabasca fireguard project. The extra expense was incurred when the contractor had to stop burning (it was bothering residents) and hire a mulcher. The 23 grand is what the mulcher cost.

“It was an unforeseen expense,” said councillor Jackson. “But we needed to do it this way.”

CAO Tullis said the unbudgeted expense would be covered out of the operating budget of the regulatory services department.

Eighteen holes, and a dozen menu items (more or less)

A request for proposals for operating the clubhouse restaurant at Wabasca’s Eagle Point Golf Course resulted in a single response. After a bit of discussion, council voted to approve the proposal of Racheal Orr and Darlene Orr for the 2022 season, for a rental rate of $200 per month.

Most of the discussion was about the menu, as proposed. Councillor Courtorielle wondered if the operators would or could consider offering choices for people with special diets, so that the restaurant could be “not just a burger joint.”

The menu is not set in stone, said Angela Lightning, who was making the report to council.

Making the motion to approve, councillor Jackson included the direction for administration to work with the operators on menu options.

“We really, really need this service,” Jackson added. “Especially with 18 holes being open now.”

Temporary dock better than nothing

Councillor Jackson asked what the chances are of the M.D. getting a dock in at the Lions’ campground this season. It may not be in the capital budget for 2022, but it’s really needed, she said.

What council wants, council can have, was more or less the response from CAO Tullis. Not needing further encouragement, Jackson made a motion to allocate up to $15,000 for the purpose, which council approved.

No help for book

Council next dealt with a request for funding from former Bigstone chief Gordon Auger. Auger is writing his life story, has a publisher, and is looking for help in covering the cost.

“Any kind of contribution will be greatly appreciated,” says Auger in his letter to the reeve.

Council did not spend much time discussing the request.

“We wish him the best of luck and accept it as information,” said councillor Cheri Courtorielle.

Honouring Dwayne Calliou

Council discussed a proposal to name something after the late Dwayne Calliou, who was a long-time employee of the M.D., as well as a councillor. Introducing the topic, reeve Auger suggested “something in the (Keekenow Senior) facility” could be named for Calliou.

The M.D. owns the building, but recently turned over its management to the Wabasca Desmarais Housing Authority. CAO Tullis said he isn’t sure of the protocol, but “council can make the recommendation.”

Councillor Jackson noted there is also a request from the family of former M.D. reeve Paul Sinclair to name something in the community after him.

The matter will be brought back to council at a later date.

Tipi blowing over

The tipi set up at the Keekenow Senior Facility in Wabasca keeps blowing over. This came up during Trina Mineault’s report on M.D. finances. She told council $250,000 had been added to the budget to deal with deficiencies at the seniors’ lodge. The tipi is apparently one of them.

“Who the heck engineered it?” asked councillor Guild. “There has to be a way of securing it properly.”

“It’s not a real tipi,” offered councillor Leo Alook.

“We cheaped out,” said councillor Jackson.

Hiring practices

Councillor Jackson said she’d heard of a couple of people who had applied for an M.D. position and never heard back from the M.D. about it.

Can’t the M.D. at least let the applicants know they haven’t been chosen, “so people aren’t sitting in limbo?”

“I agree,” said councillor Courtorielle. “It’s just courtesy.”

Typically only the ones chosen for interviews hear back from the M.D., said CAO Tullis, “but we can extend it.”

Speaking of hiring practices, councillor Larry Cardinal had something on his mind. He suggested, or implied, that people are being hired based on factors other than their qualifications.

“It makes us look bad,” he said. “Hiring practices in this M.D. have to change.”

The discussion went no further, but hiring practices was an item on the agenda for the closed session that came later in the day.

Making payments easier

Councillor Courtorielle asked what it would take to set up a debit machine at the M.D. office in Calling Lake. What she had in mind was making it easier for seniors to make payments – for housing, for example.

It can be done easily enough, said CAO Tullis, but the bigger question is whether the M.D. should be taking payments for the housing authority, when it has just handed over responsibility for housing to the Wabasca Desmarais Housing Authority. Plus, telephone banking is so easy, he said. Maybe the M.D. can arrange “a bit of training.”

But a lot of people don’t have phones, or use them for such things, said Courtorielle.

“I want it to be simple. Go to one place, pull out their bank card and they’re done.”

Too few phone lines

Councillor Guild brought up the shortage of phone lines at the seniors’ lodge in Wabasca. His question: what would it take to get a few more lines?

“Staff is stressed,” Guild said. “A lot of times they can’t get a line to call out.”

The housing authority needs to apply for more lines, council was told. In the meantime, there’s a box full of VOIP phones nobody seems to be using, provided as a temporary solution.

“Use those phones and be done with it,” suggested councillor Powell.

Drainage issues

There’s a resident in Wabasca whose basement keeps flooding, council heard. Poor drainage in the area seems to be a factor. The M.D. has already done quite a bit of work trying to improve the situation, but it is still happening.

“It’s been going on for years,” said Guild. “We need to fix that.”

“We’ll look again,” Tullis promised.

Disposal of assets

Council voted in favour of a Brendan Powell motion to use the online auction services ‘Govdeals.com’ to sell off used equipment. The benefit of this method, council heard, is that all items are sold ‘as is, where is,’ meaning nothing has to be transported to an auction site. Councillor Larry Cardinal recommended that the M.D. use Ritchie Brothers, but council went with the recommendation from admin.

The list of items slated for auction include three gooseneck trailers, three mowers, a car hauler, a Bobcat, a skidsteer, three trucks and two graders. The M.D. spent $1.46 million on the items; reserve bids for the 19 items total $257,000.

Water, all over the place

“We had some fun with water,” said Earl Gullion, starting off his utilities department report. Thanks to a couple of water main breaks, about 75 per cent of capacity was lost for a while. Then a 1.5-inch line at the old RCMP building broke, flooding the basement.

Other than that, the water plant at Calling Lake is producing more, thanks to a filter upgrade.

“Capacity is almost double,” said Gullion. “Bring on the water park!”

Snares, traps removed

Under the ‘regulatory services’ heading, council heard that Fish & Wildlife had taken action on the matter of snares and traps in or near the hamlet of Calling Lake. A number of both (more snares than traps) had been removed.

This followed an M.D. request for attention to the matter by authorities, which in turn came about due to complaints from residents about pet dogs being snared or trapped.

FireSmart work awarded for Trout, Peerless

Council accepted administration’s recommendation to award two FireSmart projects to Delbert Letendre. One is for $80,600 and the other is for $70,720.

The written reports in council’s agenda package said nothing about what the actual work is. It did say the second bidder on both projects was rejected because of inadequate documentation (for health and safety, insurance, etc.)

The lack of proper documents raised a few eyebrows around the table, because the unsuccessful bidder is doing other contract work for the M.D.

“I think it’s time council put its foot down,” said councillor Louis Cardinal.

Cyndi Taron, the director of transportation for the M.D., said the contractor had promised to have the documents by the following Monday (Feb. 14).

Wabasca FireSmart

A contract for vegetation management on the Wabasca FireSmart project was also up for grabs. The M.D. received just one bid, and it was well over the budgeted amount. It was from the Wabasca/Desmarais Metis Local #90.

The work is funded at a rate of $10,000 per hectare and the bid was for $16,000 per hectare.

The disposal method for the wood might be a factor, council heard. As noted earlier in the meeting, having to mulch instead of burn cost the same contractor a lot more in a earlier round of work on the FireSmart project. What council resolved to do was award the contract for the budgeted amount.

Councillor to join Al-Pac advisory board

Responding to a request from Alberta Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac), council appointed one of its members to sit on Al-Pac’s Landscape Advisory Group. Larry Cardinal got the job.

Councillor Jackson suggested that he bring up the issue of log haul routes with the group. Al-Pac built a road for log-hauling, she said, but then sold it to Husky and now doesn’t want to pay to use it, “so they come through our town.”

Council’s next meeting is Feb. 23 in Chipewyan Lake. Per a Feb. 9 decision by council, Zoom access to meetings is no longer allowed. If anybody wants to attend, it will have to be in person.

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