M.D. of Opportunity Council notebook

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Council’s Feb. 14 meeting was held in council chambers at Wabasca, with all but deputy reeve Brendan Powell present.

After Reeve Marshall Auger called the meeting to order at 10 a.m. sharp, five items were added to the agenda. These were: 1. A town hall meeting on RCMP in Calling Lake, 2. Tourism, 3. ‘Labour issue – staffing’, 4. The appointment of a director of emergency management (DEM) and a deputy DEM, to be discussed in a closed session, and 5. Clinic contract (also in closed session).

CAO report

CAO Chad Tullis’s report for council started off with some news about an upcoming Rural Municipalities Association conference. The M.D. has requested meetings with several provincial government ministers, he said, starting with Ric McIver, the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Topics to be discussed with him include cell towers, senior home requisitions and collaboration with First Nations.

Requests are also in for meetings with Minister of Health LaGrange, Minister of Transportation Devin Dreeshen and several others.

Wolf bounty adjustment

Council discussed the M.D.’s wolf bounty program, which it had suspended for the year. The motion, approved by council, was to reinstate the bounty for the communities of Trout Lake and Peerless Lake, “subject to Peerless Trout First Nation consultation,” with a budget of $5,000.

Fibre optic installation: free now, expensive later

Representatives of a fibre optic company made a presentation to council about what they are doing, which is installing a network of fibre – where the minutes do not say, but it is presumably in M.D. communities. The opportunity will be there for home owners to have fibre service to their homes, for no charge, if they sign up for it. If they don’t sign up now, and want it later, it will cost $4,000, council heard.

The project is to begin in the latter part of May and run through October.

Council suggested that some sort of community engagement be undertaken to inform the residents. Also that the company hire somebody local to help with signing up customers.

Appointments

Council spent just under an hour in closed session. One of the topics had to do with filling the roles of Director of Emergency Management for the M.D., as well as the deputy director of the same job. Coming back into open session, council appointed Rolanna Auger as director and Gerhard Stickling as deputy.

Clinic contract

This was another of the in camera discussion items. The details of the discussion aren’t in the minutes; what is in the minutes is council’s direction to administration to “negotiate with the Satori Group, and include the expected level of service.”

Calling Lake SOLE to stay in place

Council voted in favour of a motion to keep the state of local emergency (SOLE) in place in Calling Lake.

Further on the Calling Lake issue, council passed a motion to have M.D. administration request a meeting with Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair, “to discuss Calling Lake policing and government relations.”

More contractors for grass-cutting

More grass will be cut in M.D. hamlets this year. Council approved a motion to hire more contractors for the work, “and to include parks.” No further details appear in the minutes.

More cash for tourism promotion

Following a motion by council, administration is authorized to add $100,000 to the budget for tourism promotional supplies.

Fireworks a go

Fireworks may or may not be allowed when Canada Day comes around, but the M.D. plans on being ready if they are. Council voted in favour of a Leo Alook motion to “proceed with the purchase of fireworks,” for 2024 celebrations.

The report in council’s agenda package cautions that fire bans may interfere with fireworks plans, but they can be rescheduled for other times when the bans aren’t in place. It also speaks about the possibility of replacing fireworks with a ‘drone show.’

Grants approved

The M.D.’s Grants Committee had been busy and had a list of recommendations for council on various grant requests, as follows:

From Jessica Willier, for $400 in cash and $250-worth of merchandise for a fundraiser in Red Earth Creek.

From Boyd Davies – $15,000 for the Mistassiniy School Travel Club trip to Spain in April of this year.

From Second Chance Animal Rescue Society – $30,000 for 2024 operations.

From Red Earth Creek School – $10,000 for the school travel club for a trip in late March and early April. Destination not mentioned in the minutes.

From ATOSKE Action Group – $50,000 for their 2024 operations.

The recommendation from the committee in all cases was to approve the requests, which council did.

Extra funding for this and that

Councillor Gerald Johnson wanted to know where the money was coming from to fund the approved budget additions for ‘Trident pump system’ and ‘North Bridge,’ the first one costing $650,000 and the second $735,000. Reserves was the answer.

The other two items he was asking about are an increase of $100,000 for paving in Wabasca and $50,000 for Christmas decorations. From reserves was the answer there too.

Job openings

In the HR report for council was the news there are (or were, as of late January) job openings for fire chiefs in Sandy Lake and Calling Lake, early childhood educators in Wabasca, a custodian in Wabasca, LSC supervisor, and community peace officers in Wabasca.

Health clinic news

The medical clinic in Wabasca saw 900 patients in January. The management body for the clinic, Satori Health, is instituting a plan that will see a registered nurse paired with a doctor. This is to “help doctors manage their patients with chronic needs more efficiently,” says the report in council’s agenda.

Satori is now offering a $20,000 signing bonus for full-time physicians who agree to two years of service, and $5,000 to locums.

Development numbers

The M.D. had processed five development permit applications so far in 2024, as of the date of the report. In 2023, 58 such permits were processed, which generated $4,160 in revenue for the M.D.

Fire department

The 2023 statistics for all four of the M.D. fire departments were included in the agenda package. Their most outstanding feature was the bizarrely high number of medical call-outs to the Calling Lake fire hall. There were 121 of them, as opposed to only 24 of them to the Wabasca hall. In Calling Lake, the next biggest category of calls to the fire hall in 2023 was structure fires, with eight of them.

POP site approved

Council considered a request from a company called Arrow Technology Group, to lease a site on Muskwa Drive in Wabasca, to locate something called a ‘POP site.’ The acronym is left unexplained in the minutes, but it has something to do with the installation of fibre optic communications lines in the community.

Council approved a motion to lease the land to Arrow at the rate of $796.80, plus GST, for a term of five years.

FireSmart veg. management

Per the recommendation, council approved the awarding of a contract to do FireSmart work on 11 hectares of property in Wabasca, for the bid price of $88,000. This was well under the budgeted amount of $110,000.

Further on the FireSmart theme, council approved the addition of $225,000 to the 2024 FireSmart budget.

The reasoning, as explained in a report in council’s agenda, was the outlook for another bad wildfire season, due to lack of moisture. Vegetation maintenance around communities could “prevent catastrophic damage,” the report says.

Admin. had actually asked for $195,000.

Radar job on Sandy Lake cemetery

The cemetery in Sandy Lake will get a ground-penetrating radar treatment this year. Council voted to give a contract on that to Maverick Inspections Ltd., for $21,287.

The purpose of the project, according to the report, is to “identify burial locations and orientations.”

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