M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

May 12, 2021 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Campgrounds: stampede for spots

Director of recreation and culture Angie Lightning updated council on preparations for the season at a couple of M.D.-operated campgrounds. The Lions Campground in Wabasca is due to have portable showers in place, plus new playground equipment.

Meanwhile, the campground at Calling Lake that the M.D. manages should be shifting over soon to online booking, Lightning said. Until it does, M.D. staff there are “getting swamped” with reservation requests, to the tune of $50,000-worth so far.

Canada Day plans: fireworks possible

“It’s not looking good for gatherings,” Lightning said, “but we could at least do fireworks.”

Councillors liked the sound of that. Brendan Powell said he was in favour of having fireworks shows “in the three areas we’re used to doing them over the years. If we can.”

Deputy reeve Everett Gottfried suggested going even bigger than usual on the fireworks, spending some money that is being saved elsewhere due to COVID restrictions.

Councillor Darlene Jackson said she agreed, providing there’s no fire ban. If there is, she suggested booking a different date for the fireworks, so the deposit isn’t lost.

Tax notices might be delayed

Tax notices might be going out later than usual, council heard, due to a new class of commercial property being implemented this year. Called the ‘small business sub-class,’ it will have a different mill rate than the one for bigger businesses. Judging from the discussion on the topic, it won’t be automatically applied. Business owners have to be aware of it and apply so as to demonstrate their eligibility. The M.D. has made an effort to contact the likely beneficiaries, director of finance Trina Mineault reported.

“Was there a large response?” asked Gottfried.

About 25 per cent, she said.

Gottfried speculated about some businesses finding out about it after it was too late to take advantage of it. Would there be any recourse?

“We can come back to council,” said CAO Chad Tullis.

New management scheme for medical clinic

Wabasca-Desmarais’ Golden Opportunity Medical Clinic will be under new management, after council voted in favour of a proposal by Dr. Riyaan Hassen. His company will look after management, including the recruiting of doctors and nurses to staff it.

The M.D. expects to save money on the deal, council heard – about $250,000.

Director of corporate services Gerhard Stickling added that the agreement has a penalty clause in it that comes into effect if at least two doctors or one doctor and one nurse practitioner aren’t at the clinic, 90 per cent of the time.

“Are we going to be better off than we are now?” asked councillor Robin Guild.

“I would say yes,” said Stickling, “for two reasons.”

One is the new ‘fee-for-service’ model, which provides doctors incentive to see as many patients as possible in a day. He expects that alone will help alleviate some of the backlog.

The second reason is that “For a doctor to recruit fellow doctors is a lot easier” than for the municipality.

(Editor’s note: How and why the municipality got into running a clinic and recruiting medical professionals is a good question. Probably it was because Alberta Health Services wasn’t doing a good enough job, so the M.D. stepped in.)

Fire guards: two out of three ain’t bad

Fire guards are being, or have been, constructed near Red Earth Creek and Wabasca. A third one, to protect Calling Lake, was proposed, but it looks as if it won’t be going ahead.

The reason? Local people don’t want it.

“There’s a minimum of 70 per cent opposition to the Calling Lake fire guard,” Tullis told council.

In other fire guard news, council agreed to a proposal for the Phase II contractor on the Red Earth Creek job to treat the whole area with a special kind of mulcher, to the tune of $180,000 extra. This could be covered out of contingency funds. Bill Auger, making the report, said it should save money on Phase III of the project, which would include site prep, seeding and fencing. The ultimate goal is to have animals keep the grass down on the guard – which in the case of Red Earth Creek is three separate sections.

Dug-outs are also a part of Phase III of the project. Council approved a plan to hire local firms to do the work, up to a total of $25,000 per dug-out.

Red Earth Airport clearing

Council voted to award a contract for clearing at the Red Earth Creek airport to a numbered company, which otherwise was referred to as ‘Willie & Sons.’ The amount is around $10,000.

It wasn’t the lowest of the four bids received on the job, which the M.D. estimated would cost them $16,000 if they hired by the hour. But the company making the lowest bid was deemed to be too busy already to get the work done anytime soon.

“I don’t want this job to drag on all summer,” was how Cindy Taron, presenting the report to council, put it.

New website soon

Director of corporate services Gerhard Stickling told council work on the new M.D. website continues.

“We’re very close,” he said, “and “it’s beautiful!”

One handy feature will be the ability to book campsites. How about tee times at Eagle Point? asked Gottfried.

Councillor Jackson said she didn’t think that would work, because people not showing up for tee times is so common.
“People wouldn’t cancel online, and then you’d have a big space where no one is golfing.”

Low expectations for census

Councillors aren’t too optimistic about the federal census capturing an accurate picture of how many people live in Opportunity communities.

Calling Lake councillor Victor Gladue estimated 50 per cent in his community wouldn’t bother filling out the form and sending it in.

Gottfried talked about timid people scared of dogs doing the delivery of census packages.

“We’re not going to get accurate numbers,” he said. “It’s too bad, because we need those numbers for funding.”

Municipalities can do their own counts, but CAO Chad Tullis told council federal and provincial governments “aren’t recognizing” them.

Calling Lake councillor Barry Schmidt suggested M.D. employees could be assigned to help the Statistics Canada people get their materials out to Opportunity residents.

“We can try to reach out,” said Tullis.

Public hearing

Council’s final item was a public hearing on a re-zoning application for a lot on the corner of Lakeview Dr. and Jackson St. The prospective purchaser of the lot (from the M.D.) wants to set up a four-plex on the site and needs the re-zoning to make it possible.

“It’s going to be pretty affordable housing,” Mike Woodcock told council.

Nobody from the public spoke up on the re-zoning, one way or another. Council followed up by giving the bylaw change second and third readings.

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