M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

May 26, 2021 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

In-person meetings

Council discussed the pros and cons of returning to in-person council and committee meetings. Most who spoke up were in favour of some version of it. Others maybe not so much.

“Do we have an option to go or not?” asked councillor Louis Cardinal.

CAO Chad Tullis said either type of attendance should be doable. “We’ll try to work through the tech issues,” he said.

Canada Day celebrations going ahead

Council heard about plans for a fireworks show for July 1, as well as an outdoor concert in Wabasca.

“Just Wabasca?” said Red Earth Creek councillor Brendan Powell, adding he saw no reason why there couldn’t be fireworks in Red Earth and Calling Lake as well. He went on to say as far as he knows, $10,000 is the “ballpark range for a half-decent show.”

Calling Lake councillor Victor Gladue said, “If we’re going to have something, you might as well have a good one or nothing.”

Wabasca councillor Robin Guild was all for it: “I think we deserve a good celebration, the last 15 months we’ve had.”

CAO Tullis suggested a $40,000 budget should cover it – $10,000 each for Red Earth Creek and Calling Lake and $20,000 for Wabasca. Council voted in favour of a motion to that effect. Part of the money is to be spent on rental for a moveable stage for the outdoor concert in Wabasca. The amount ($8,800) raised at least one set of eyebrows.

“Are we buying that thing?” asked Calling Lake councillor Barry Schmidt.

No, and that’s just the damage deposit, he was told. The full rental cost is $17,000. The price to purchase the stage is around $100,000, Tullis said. It could be looked at as a capital purchase for the future, he added.

Solar farm idea pitched

Council heard from a renewable energy firm, with a proposal to build a solar ‘farm’ next to the medical clinic. If approved, 40 per cent of the project’s cost could be recouped in the form of a grant from the provincial government.

But there was a catch: the government’s fund for such subsidies is drying up. Act immediately or risk losing the opportunity, was the message from Dandelion Renewables rep Mikhail Ivanchikov.

Councillors were interested in the concept and asked lots of questions. But in the end, they were also uncomfortable about having to decide so quickly on spending unbudgeted money.

So council merely accepted the report as information.

Brand new policy on expense claims

Council approved a remuneration policy for the M.D. It replaces the former custom of approving compensation rates annually, at annual organizational meeting of council.

One thing tweaked in the policy is the mileage numbers between towns/cities for expense claim purposes. This had been a sore point – raised by councillor Robin Guild at an earlier meeting. His contention was that the allowable kms. should be tightened up, so as to reduce costs to the M.D.

Speaking of incorrect distances, the proposed policy had at least one mistake. Chipewyan Lake councillor Roy Yellowknee pointed out that the distance from his community to Edmonton is certainly not 133 kilometres. It turned out the person drafting the policy had taken Google’s word on that, not noticing it was calculating from Edmonton to the ‘other’ Chip Lake.

Another suggestion Guild had made was that the expense claim reports be posted on the M.D. website. Calling Lake councillor Victor Gladue asked what the reason is for that. Not that I’m against it, he said, but “how far do we go?”

“Just for full transparency,” said Guild. “It’s a good practice to be in.”

Deputy reeve Everett Gottfried isn’t a fan. There should be a cost to going to that extra trouble, he said. He added that the information is already available to anyone upon request.

“None of us are out to gouge,” Gottfried added. “But we should be paid fairly.”

Wrapping up the discussion, reeve Marcel Auger called it “a good starting point.”

The new policy pegs the allowable kilometres at whatever Google Maps says is the exact distance. And the claim reports will be posted quarterly on the M.D. website.

Calling Lake fire guard

“I’m not sure we need to discuss this anymore,” said Gladue, leading off the conversation. “The community doesn’t support it.”

They didn’t discuss it, much. But reeve Auger said it was “too bad it didn’t play out,” calling it “an innovative way to create fire-safe communities.”

Council voted in favour of a Darlene Jackson motion to not proceed with the fire guard, and to reallocate the money.

Support for playschool

Council discussed and debated an application for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funding for the Wabasca-Desmarais playschool. Providing background, Angela Lightning said early in the year the group had requested a $42,000 grant from the M.D. The M.D. counter-offered space in one of its facilities, which was declined. Council could make a grant, Lightning said, of whatever amount it sees fit. As an example, $12,000 was suggested, being the amount the playschool pays in rent for the year.

Councillor Schmidt made a motion to do just that.

At that, Wabasca councillor Everett Gottfried said Schmidt had jumped the gun a bit, making a motion before he’d had his say.

“It’s a good program,” he said, and proposed $20,000 instead.

Schmidt declined the opportunity to amend his motion.

A couple of other councillors spoke up in support of Gottfried’s position. But Schmidt’s motion stood, and the $12,000 was approved.

Grad donation

Council next discussed a request from the Kateri School in Trout Lake for a $1,000 grant for a high school graduation celebration. Some councillors were all for it; others not. It came down to a split decision, with the ‘ayes’ taking it by a 6 – 5 score.

Setting a precedent was one concern expressed. So was the fact the M.D. already pledges $200 per grad. That seemed more than enough to some councillors, including Darlene Jackson.

“I’m sure the Town of Slave Lake doesn’t give grads $2,000, or whatever,” she said, adding that $200 “is really a good gift.”

Leo Alook of Trout Lake made the motion to grant the request, which – as noted – passed by a whisker.

Calling Lake seniors’ complex: re-scope, re-tender and hope for lower prices

Bids on a 10-unit housing complex for seniors in Calling Lake came back well over the budgeted amount of $2.8 million. The lowest of the bids was $1.2 million above the line. Presenting the report, Bill Auger said costs could be reduced in a number of ways. One was to eliminate the concrete basement; another was to go with eight units instead of 10. But that still wouldn’t get the number within budget.

Complicating the picture is the volatile price of materials. Contractors bidding on the job said they could only guarantee materials’ prices for a week.

“Something needs to be done to reduce costs,” said councillor Gottfried. “We’re not talking pennies here.”

Councillor Gladue had one suggestion. The suggested cost of ‘landscaping,’ at $400,000 was far too high, he said.

“I think that’s crazy. We can get our own guys to do it for $20,000 or something.”

After some back and forth – some of it a bit on the testy side – council accepted a CAO Tullis recommendation to re-tender the project with some cost-reducing modifications. The hope is by the time it goes out to tender, prices of building materials will have come down.

Sailing club gets its lease

The Calling Lake Sailing Club’s five-year lease on a piece of lakeside property had expired and it had applied for a renewal. The rate had been $437 for that entire period, council heard.

“Land is very expensive there,” observed councillor Gladue. “But this is non-profit. I’m not sure exactly what they do, but they’ve been using it.”

Gottfried wanted to know if the group has any programs that benefit the community. If not, and it’s just a case of somebody hanging on to the lease to have some inexpensive lake-front, he would be against renewing it.

“Before COVID they were offering swimming and sailing lessons,” said Schmidt.

“They shouldn’t be using it for camping,” said Gladue.

“Who said they’re using it for camping?” asked Schmidt. “You can hardly get in there!”

Council voted in favour of a motion to renew the lease.

New ice resurfacer for Wab. arena

The Marian Wolitski Arena in Wabasca is due for a new ice cleaning/flooding machine, the old one having reached 20 years service or so. Council heard just one quote had been received. The price was not mentioned. Delivery will be in 10 – 12 months.

“They’re that far behind,” said Kimball Newbury of the public works department, making the report.

The old machine is good for a $10,000 trade-in value.

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