M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

(Report is compiled from the draft minutes, I.e. not officially approved, from the June 22, 2022 meeting, held at the Peerless Trout First Nation administration boardroom)

Workshop in Osoyoos

Council approved a Councillor Louis A. Cardinal motion to authorize a council workshop in Osoyoos, B.C., on July 7 and 8. The minutes contain no clue as to what the workshop is about, or why it is being held 1,180 kilometres from Wabasca. However, there is some information in the agenda additions package. It says Bigstone Cree Nation chief and council are in Osoyoos that week, and “this is an opportunity to meet with them to discuss the five-year capital plan.”

Getting on YouTube

Council liked the idea of having a promotional video for Wabasca produced. According to the minutes, the proposal came from a Lyle Cardinal, and the person to make the video is apparently a Jerry Jackson, although the wording makes it open to interpretation. A $3,000 grant is mentioned – although it is not clear from the minutes whether the grant is something received by the M.D. from another source, or granted by the M.D. to the videographer.

As part of councillor Robin Guild’s motion, the grant is subject to M.D. approval of the material used in the video.

Councillor Darlene Jackson declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the discussion or vote, which was unanimously in favour.

Yoga for Calling Lake

Council had received a request from a summer resident of Calling Lake for financial help to provide free yoga classes to residents during July and August. The proposal, from Cheryl McConnell, was to have the M.D. cover the cost of the programs, which would be for youth, adults and seniors.

Councillor Jackson’s motion was to authorize M.D. administration to “look into pricing” for the yoga programs, carried unanimously.

Hockey schools for Red Earth Creek, Calling Lake

One idea that came out of a meeting of the councils of the M.D. and Bigstone Cree Nation on June 13 was to hold hockey schools in Wabasca, Red Earth Creek and Calling Lake. On the agenda on June 22 was the discussion about paying for the Red Earth Creek portion of that scheme.

Costs, council heard, would be $18,500 to bring “the Nolans” in to conduct the hockey school. This likely refers to the ‘3Nolans First Nation Hockey School,’ offered by former NHL coach Ted Nolan, along with his sons Jordan and Brandon.

Councillor Brendan Powell made the motion to authorize administration to engage 3Nolans to put on a hockey school in Red Earth Creek for the amount noted, on Aug. 23 and 24. The motion was approved unanimously.

In a related item, councillor Cheri Courtorielle moved that the M.D. book the Reggie Leach Hockey School for Calling Lake, for the price of $18,000.

Funding for ‘mini events’

Another item coming out of the Opportunity/Bigstone meeting of June 13 was a commitment to providing more activities for young people. The plan is to have a series of what are being called ‘mini’ events in various locations in Wabasca. Both councils committed $20,000 to the initiative.
The minutes provide no details on what the events might consist of.

Extra cash for splash parks

In council’s agenda was a report on the Wabasca and Calling Lake splash parks, citing the need for just under $42,000 extra for ‘amenities’ for the two parks. The breakdown was $26,085 for Wabasca and $15,817 for Calling Lake. The amenities include benches, picnic tables and bike racks.

However, the motion made and approved unanimously was to increase the capital budget by $100,000 to cover the cost of splash park amenities. The breakdown is $50,000 apiece.

No explanation for the more-than-double cost was provided in the minutes.

Additional work for Red Earth hall

Council approved $319,244 in unbudgeted funding for the base for the parking lot at the new Red Earth Creek community hall. This work was not part of the original contract.

The report in the agenda package says the project had a $300,000 contingency amount, 90 per cent of which has been spent on change orders.

The M.D. is hoping the parking lot base work can be granted to a local contractor. Paving and curb and gutter work will be proposed in the 2023 capital budget.

Annoying alarm

The M.D. has been getting complaints about an alarm going off “at all hours” at a property in Calling Lake. The owner lives in Fort McMurray, council heard, and is “difficult to deal with.” He can turn the alarm off with his phone, say the minutes, “but doesn’t.”
The matter has been turned over to M.D. bylaw enforcement to deal with under the M.D.’s noise bylaw.

Moving funds from one project to another

Council gave unanimous approval to a Councillor Cheri Courtorielle motion to reduce the budget of the Wabasca fire hall concrete project by $50,000. The second part of the motion was to create a new project with that $50,000, called the ‘WWW&FC Sidewalk Project.’ WWW&FC, if we’re not mistaken, stands for Wabasca Water World and Fitness Centre.

Budgets amended

Council approved amended versions of both the 2023 operating and capital budgets.

Changes to the operating budget include $110,000 for water and sewer tie-in grants, $843,000 for something called ‘LTD principal payments,’ $13,500,000 amortization removed, $777,245 decrease in school requisition (thanks to a PERC application being accepted), and a transfer to capital reserves of $6,463,241.

Amendments to the capital budget include increases of $235,520 for water and sewer tie-ins, $250,000 for deficiencies at the Keekenow Senior Facility, a $156,184 correction to the M.D. contribution to the Sandy Lake lagoon, and $104,345 to fleet vehicle purchases.

On the grants side of things, the following adjustments: Wabasca fireguard grant funds increase from the approved amount of $376,234 to $770,599, and Red Earth fireguard grant decrease from the budgeted $470,802, to $36,114.

Re-zoning for cemetery expansion

Council gave first reading to a proposed bylaw change that would re-zone part of a lot from Conservation District to Institutional/Recreational District. A public hearing is scheduled for July 13. The purpose is to accommodate an expansion of the Wabasca cemetery.

Three quarters of an hour off the work day

M.D. office staff will be working fewer hours per week, after council approved a recommended change to the M.D. Personnel Policy. Other changes approved were to the compensation rate for the use of personal vehicles for M.D. business, and an increase in the per-day personal expense allowance for staff.

The reasoning for shortening the work day/week for M.D. admin. staff was not given in the report in council’s agenda package, except that it would bring Opportunity “in line with neighbouring municipalities.” The M.D. had been operating on a 40-hour work week, the report says; averaging eight hours per day. At the new 7.25 hours per day rate, the work week will now be 36.25 hours.

Also not mentioned in the report or the minutes was whether there would be a corresponding reduction in salaries to reflect the fewer hours worked.

Staff using their own vehicles for M.D. business will now be reimbursed at the CRA-recommended rate of $.61/km. Previously, the rate was only $.29/km, when an M.D. vehicle was available as an option.

Finally, the personal expense allowance for staff was raised from $30 to $50 per day.

Mud bog site prep bid way too high

Council voted in favour of a Councillor Darlene Jackson motion to re-tender the mud bog site preparation contract. This decision came after the only bid on the job the first time around was $381,000 over the budgeted amount.

Back to the drawing board on Wabasca fire guard site contract

Also re-tendered is the site prep and seeding job on the new Wabasca fire guard. Similar to the above item, only one bid was received and it was way over the budgeted amount.

The M.D. had allocated $727,000 in the 2022 budget for the work. Eric Auger & Sons bid $1.9 million.

That was too rich for council’s blood, and they ordered admin. to re-tender the project, with hopes for better results.

Muskwa cemetery expansion

The M.D. plans to add 32 plots to the Muskwa cemetery in 2022. The expected cost is around $40,500, with the M.D. supplying the material.
Council approved the tendering of the project for the recommended price.

Brushing on Hwy. 686

This matter was up for discussion only, not for council to make any decisions. According to councillor Leo Alook, corners on Hwy. 686 are dangerous and something should be done about it.

Council also heard – from director of public works Cyndi Taron that Alberta Transportation is looking at re-aligning the road and won’t be brushing the corners this year.

Council asked CAO Chad Tullis to discuss the safety concerns with Alberta Transportation and get back to council on it.

Trout Lake grader contract

Councillor Alook moved that the contract for grading at Trout Lake be terminated and re-tendered.
This follows an earlier discussion (at council’s May 25 meeting) about lack of road maintenance in the Peerless-Trout area. The direction then was for administration to look into it. Apparently that happened, and the result was the recommendation as noted above.

Flooding community rinks

Council went ahead and voted to rescind the M.D.’s policy on the use of treated water to flood community skating rinks.

The reason for doing this, not to mention the implications, were not stated in the minutes and is not clear in the report in the agenda package either. The policy, before it was rescinded, said community members could use M.D. treated water for rink floods only with M.D. permission, and only if an M.D. utility officer was present to turn the hydrant on and off. Also that it could only be permitted if it didn’t interfere with water supply to the community.

No more grace period

When it comes to trucking water and sewage to and from residences at subsidized rates, council approved a change in the policy. Previously, residents adjacent to water and sewer main lines were given six months to connect to these lines, during which they could still benefit from the subsidized rates for the trucking services. Under the new policy, that six-month grace period has been removed.

Wabasca Indigenous Sports Council

Councillor Brendan Powell moved that the M.D. provide $40,000 to Bigstone Cree Nation for the Wabasca Indigenous Sports Council. This is a joint venture of the two organizations.

More golf

Council approved two proposals to authorize M.D. participation in a couple of golf tournaments. One is the Peace Region Alberta Transportation tournament and the other is the RMA District 5 tournament. Places and dates were not provided in the minutes.

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