M.D. of Opportunity spending a million on splash parks

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The M.D. of Opportunity plan to build a couple of splash parks this year – one in Calling Lake and one in Wabasca. On Feb. 23, council voted to award the contract for both jobs to a company called Playquest, for a cool $979,590, plus tax.

The M.D. had received bids from five companies. The prices were pretty close to each other. Some bids were separate for the Wabasca and Calling Lake projects.

Laying down the law on safety

Contractors working for the M.D. will now have to be up to speed on safety management, after council approved an amendment to the M.D.’s procurement policy. It now states that contractors with fewer than 10 employees, who do not possess a Small Employer Certificate of Recognition (SECOR), “may be hired, but must adhere to the M.D.’s Health and Safety program.”

Those with 10 or more employees must have a valid COR, or else.

This change was likely prompted by the news that a contractor currently working for the M.D. lacks the required certification.

New fees approved

Council gave all three readings to an amended set of fees. The main item was to return the rates charged at Eagle Point Golf Course to what they were originally.

According to the report in council’s agenda, golfing fees were raised last year in expectation of the second nine holes being open, but that didn’t happen. It is, presumably, happening in 2022, but whatever the reason was for raising the rates in the year of the new nine opening does not seem to apply anymore
Also approved in the amended Rates and Fees Bylaw was a rate of $600 per hour per apparatus for fire calls, plus $185 per hour for the ‘command unit.’ Commercial false alarms are to be charged at $250 for the second one, and $500 per, after that.

Also part of councillor Brendan Powell’s motion was to ‘delete Keyanow Medical Clinic fees.’ Nothing on these fees was included in the report in council’s agenda, and no explanation is in the minutes.

Tightening tie-in grants

The policy for how the M.D. doles out grants for water tie-ins was tweaked a bit. The new version says the M.D. will pay the cost (up to $5,000) directly to the contractor, upon completion of the work and submission of an invoice. Further, the applicant must confirm, in writing, that the work was finished properly. There are a few other conditions as well, as to who qualifies. Housing corporations and authorities, for example, do not.

$25,000 to Calling Lake food bank program

The M.D. has some FCSS money to be used for food programs, but administration can only approve grants of up to $1,500. The operator of a food program in Calling Lake offers food boxes once per month and was asking the M.D. for $25,000.

Also in the written report were figures on grants given out by the M.D. (presumably in the current budget period, but it doesn’t say). Budgeted for grants was $405,000. Of that $375,000 has already been given out. A separate amount is $75,000 from Food Banks Canada, called the FCSS Foods Bank Grant. It had $37,500 left in it.

Council approved a Cheri Courtorielle motion to approve the $25,000 grant.

Ten grand requested for conference

Council approved a Courtorielle motion to table the matter of a request for a grant of $10,000 from an organization called ‘Urban Rez Cultural Society.’ The applicant plans to host a conference in August of this year in Wabasca. The conference is called ‘Knowledge Keepers.’ Administration will invite the applicants to attend a council meeting.

The organization has received grants from the M.D. before and “financial reporting remains outstanding.”

Used equipment for Sandy gym

A fledgling gym in Sandy Lake will receive a donation of some used equipment from the Wabasca Water World & Fitness facility. The request came by way of a letter from Tahirih Wiebe, in her role as a director of the TJBSC Community Learning Centre. As an M.D. councillor, she did not participate in the discussion or vote on it.

Approved for donation are a shaker unit, an elliptical machine and some mats.

Water and sewer work in Red Earth

Council voted to award the contract for water and sewer tie-ins for the Red Earth Creek Community Hall to Remote Oil & Gas, for $269,665, and Milestone Engineering for engineering services, for $25,854. The contracts represent a budget increase of $235,520.

As explained in the report in council’s agenda package, the original budget hadn’t anticipated site elevations on the new community hall that are too low for a gravity service. Overcoming this is what is costing the extra money.

Not so fast on provincial police force

In council’s agenda package was a letter from three rural municipalities and the Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council, to Premier Jason Kenney. Signed by the leaders of all four of those jurisdictions, it states opposition to any transition from RCMP to a provincial police force. Further, it says no such transition should be happening without adequate consultation. It extends an invitation to the premier, plus the concerned ministers, to meet and discuss.

“We look forward to this dialogue and anticipate a positive response,” the letter concludes.

About that mill rate ratio

Also in the agenda package was a letter from Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver, on the subject of the spread between non-residential and residential mill rates. The rule, since the Municipal Government Act was amended in 2016, McIver says in the letter, is the ratio should be no greater than five to one. Opportunity’s has historically been greater than that, although it is a lot closer to 5:1 than it used to be.

McIver says while he understands the difficulties, “a competitive tax ratio is critical to ensuring economic growth for municipalities and stimulus for non-residential properties.” McIver goes on to encourage council to “continue to consider measures to address your tax ratio….”

(The above report was gleaned from the agenda and draft minutes from the Feb. 23 council meeting, which was held in Chipewyan Lake. The M.D. no longer allows remote attendance via Zoom, which is why no discussion or debate is included.)

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