M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Council’s Nov. 15 regular meeting was held at council chambers in Wabasca, with all members of council present. Added to the agenda at the start of the meeting were the following items: Wabasca Desmarais Housing issue, Santas Anonymous, a proposal having to do with a vending machine (or machines) and a community supper for Red Earth Creek.

SOLE renewed for Calling Lake

Council voted in favour of a Cheri Courtorielle motion that the state of local emergency (SOLE) be renewed. Council also decided to revisit the issue at its Nov. 29 meeting.

News from the CAO

CAO Chad Tullis’s written report for council included some news from the recent Rural Municipalities Association (RMA) conference. While there, council had a chance to meet with several ministers, including Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen. They spoke with him about the campground in Wabasca, the impact of the forestry industry, FireSmart and fire guards.

With Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Dan Williams, council discussed transitional housing and mental health operational funding.

Mike Ellis, the Minister of Public Safety, heard from council about victim services and states of local emergency.

Council bent Minister of Transportation Devin Dreeshen’s ear about Hwy. 686, Hwy. 88 lights, Mistassiniy Road repairs and paving in Calling Lake within the reserve.

Peace officer program

Also in Tullis’ report was an update on the implementation program for community peace officers. A plan is being developed, he said, but didn’t provide much detail. Lots of steps are required. The program is expected to “become operational” in late spring or early summer, 2024.

Housing issue

According to the minutes, the Wabasca Desmarais Housing Authority board had asked if they could apply for grants through the M.D. Administration will reach out to Alberta Counsel, to see if it can work with the housing authority on grants. Alberta Counsel is an Edmonton-based lobbying firm that the M.D. has engaged for public relations work.

Santas Anonymous

Council had previously authorized the use of the Eagle Point Golf Course clubhouse for the Santas Anonymous program. But further authorization was apparently required to hand the keys to the clubhouse over to councillor Darlene Jackson for the duration of the program. This was done by way of a motion, which was carried.

Capital projects

Council got an update on various capital projects from Jason Supernault, the director. A few examples of these ongoing items are Sandy Lake gasification, housing for seniors’ in Calling Lake, metal signs, and a playground in Sandy Lake (postponed until next year). Under the heading ‘current needs,’ on the gasification project is the note: ‘More customers to apply for retailer.’

Post office reno for Calling Lake

Council accepted a recommendation to award the contract for renovations at the post office in Calling Lake to a company called Budney’s Maintenance Service, for $9,460.

The work includes the replacement of a service counter with a lockable doorway into the back of the post office. An eight-foot service counter will be installed, along with new cabinets, etc.

The report does not say when the work is expected to commence, or be completed.

Extended rec hours

Council approve a motion to add a couple of later evenings at two M.D. rec centres, to accommodate adults. These apply to the pool and fitness centre in Wabasca and the Lakeview Sports Centre in Calling Lake. They’ll be open until 9:30 p.m., twice per week. What days of the week those would be is not mentioned in the minutes.

Deal on vending machine space

Council had a proposal from Jessica Cardinal to rent out locations for vending machines (presumably in M.D.-owned facilities). The proposal was she would pay the M.D. $250 per year for four such locations. Council approved it.

Grant applications in November

The M.D. received 13 requests for grants from community groups in November. The total amount of these requests was not included in the minutes – just the recommendation of the Grants Committee. Here’s what council approved:

St. Martin’s Parish – $1,000
Round dance and feast – $2,500
Volleyball tournament – $2,000
Bigstone Community Wellness Recovery Conference – $1,000
Wabasca Men’s Rec Hockey League – $2,500
Bigstone Community Wellness community Christmas dinners – $10,000
Wabasca Senior Girls Volleyball – $2.000
Wabasca Eagles Volleyball Club – $5,000
Calling Lake Food Bank/Santas Anonymous – $5,000
Wabasca Iskwewak Society for Women’s Celebration – $10,000
Minor Hockey – bus fee waiver

Red Earth dinner

This item was evidently just for council’s information and not a request for funds. Last year, the M.D. and Red Earth Creek School teamed up to put on a community Christmas dinner, and the partner would like to do the same again this year.

Funds are available in the Red Earth Creek special events budget, council heard.

Finances

According to the report from director Trina Mineault, revenue as of Oct. 31 stood at $73 million, and operating expenditures at $48 million.

On the capital side (I.e. projects) $15 million had been spent – the majority of it on the seniors’ complex in Calling Lake, paving in Wabasca, Transportation Road in Red Earth and fleet and equipment.

Job openings

The M.D. is looking (or was at the time of the report), a heavy-duty mechanic, an apprentice mechanic, security services, a couple of fire chiefs and a handyman.

The Human Resources department is looking at bringing in a course on essential skills for supervisors.

Extra security

Responding to a request from the M.D., the RCMP’s Athabasca detachment commander informed the M.D. the detachment could provide 458 ‘enhanced hours’ of policing for Calling Lake. Over what period was not mentioned in the report. There would be a cost to the M.D. of $50,000.

Administration is working with the Alberta Solicitor General’s department on an agreement for the enhanced policing.

Animal control

Eleven dogs were being housed in Wabasca, council heard, and three each in Calling Lake and Red Earth. SCARS was able to move one dog from Wabasca in the previous month.

In the reporting period, M.D. animal control officers received six complaints from Bigstone Cree Nation residents about animals.

Community engagement continues to be a focus for the animal control program. According to the report in council’s agenda package, there’s a lot of work to do in this area.

“Residents become extremely defensive/argumentative when held accountable (for their pets),” says the report. “So we are focusing our time explaining the bylaw in detail.”

In the meantime, the kennel expansion project in Wabasca is “taking longer than it should.”

No dice on group homes

Council gave first reading to a proposed land-use bylaw amendment that would see ‘group homes’ added as a discretionary use in the R1A – Residential District.

The request for the addition of group homes into the R1A came from Garry W. Cardinal and Sheryl Cardinal, who would like to have such a facility for foster children in their home, “until they can construct a larger building.”

The motion was defeated, with councillors Johnson, Courtorielle, Wiebe, Guild and Cardinal opposed. No reasons for their ‘nay’ votes made it into the minutes. However, the ‘disadvantages’ mentioned in the written report might have had something to do with it. This was that allowing group homes in R1A “could allow for multiple group homes within a single neighbourhood.”

The benefit of approving the amendment, according to the report, would be that “local children in care can stay in the community, rather than being sent to an out-of-town group home facility.”

Contracts approved

Vegetation management on fire guards is a job somebody has to do, so council got down to business and awarded a couple of contracts.

For Red Earth Creek fire guard management, Waymor Construction gets the job, for $107,220.

The Wabasca fire guard maintenance contract goes to Davidson Oilfield Construction, for $134,400.

The report says nothing about the duration of either contract.

More on fire guards

The M.D. is hoping to land more cash for fire guard construction and maintenance from the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA). Three such applications were approved by council – one for Calling Lake, one for Sandy Lake and one for Wabasca.

Paving extension

Next, council dealt with a request for a contract extension by a paving contractor. Knelsen Sand & Gravel had the paving contract for Wabasca this year, but weren’t able to finish it due to (so they said) the weather.

What the company wanted was to extend the completion period to July 15 of 2024, thus avoiding penalties for lack of completion. Those penalties would be $1,350 per day.

Council approved an extension to June 30, 2024.

Water and sewer tanks

The M.D. has a grant program to help residents with the cost of installing water and sewer tanks. One Sandy Lake resident was requesting such a grant, for a job quoted at $28,000.

The maximum grant amount, per policy, is $10,000, council heard.

Council’s decision, contrary to the policy, was to grant $20,000 to the applicant; also to retender the project, in hopes of getting a better price.

Help with hampers

Council voted in favour of a Gerald Johnson motion to approve a $5,000 grant to the fire department in Red Earth Creek. The money will go towards the Christmas food hamper program in that community.

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