Dec. 8, 2020 meeting
Watershed report: ‘It all flows this way’
A five-year testing program of Lesser Slave Lake water is in the works. That was one of the items in a presentation by Lesser Slave Watershed Council Executive Director Meghan Payne.
Payne told council it costs money, and only the first year’s-worth is secured. (Hint, hint?).
In related watershed news, a five-year program of analyzing water from streams that flow into Lesser Slave Lake is well along. Its most notable finding so far is an uncomfortably high presence of fecal coliform bacteria in the West Prairie River. Since that’s where the Town of High Prairie gets its drinking water, it’s a concern.
One river not being tested is the Lesser Slave. Mayor Tyler Warman asked Payne what it would take to add it to the list. More money, was the answer. Warman asked for an estimate.
Warman wrapped up the presentation by thanking Payne for her organization’s efforts on behalf of the watershed.
“It all flows this way,” he said.
Two town employees were in isolation, reported CAO David Kim, due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID. Three other employees were injured – but not seriously – in the line of work during the week.
The town is working with a contractor to come up with what Kim called a ‘ballpark estimate’ on what it would cost to hook up a brewery with the town’s sewer system. This is on the far side of Caribou Trail. In other development news, Kim’s report for council included the detail that a “new surface repair methodology” is being investigated (presumably for roads). Asked for more on it, Kim didn’t say what it entails, but that “it saves a lot of money.”
“I’ll wait on the edge of my seat,” said Warman.
Unpaid utility bills added to property taxes
The town has $66,000 in utility bills owing, made up of individual accounts that are at least 90 days overdue. The standard practice is to add these amounts to the property taxes of the individuals or companies in question. It happens every year; the only difference this year is that it’s happening later than usual.
Asked how the amount compares with other years, director of finance Roland Schmidt said a bit less.
Council made the requested motion to do the transfer.
Properties to tax auction
Continuing on a theme, council dealt with six properties on which property taxes have been unpaid for some time. The plan is to put them up for sale on Feb. 25, 2021 if the taxes haven’t been paid by then (or perhaps satisfactory arrangements have been made). Four are empty lots, valued at around $70,000 apiece. Two are mobile homes. One is valued at $23,900 and the other at $51,600.
Council authorized an interim operating budget for the first couple of months of 2021 until the new budget is finalized. This is standard procedure and prompted not a single question or comment from council.
The amount is $4.6 million, which is about one sixth of the 2020 budget.
Councillor Julie Brandle’s report contained the news that the requisition for town funds would not be going up in 2021. That’s thanks to a budget the board passed with a zero per cent increase.
On the other hand, there are vacancies in both the lodge and other housing authority units around town. A plan to do a ‘virtual tour’ of the lodge for promotional purposes has been put on hold, due to the COVID lockdown.
Health advisory committee
Councillor Joy McGregor said there hadn’t been a meeting, but she made some calls and came up with the following information: Eleven babies were delivered at the SL Health Care Centre in November. At the Family Care Clinic, nine doctors and five nurse practitioners are on the job. The average wait time to get an appointment to see a doctor is nine days; for an NP it’s eight days.
Walk-ins are still being accepted. Whether that’s changed with new COVID restrictions, McGregor couldn’t say.
Libraries would be shutting down again, McGregor reported. Curbside pick-up was being contemplated. The libraries had been operating at 25 per cent capacity (The number of patrons). They’ll be down to zero per cent now for a while.
In other library news, McGregor said she’s been appointed chair of the board, with Charlotte Measor as vice chair, Herfried Schmidt as secretary and Jean Litz as treasurer.
Municipal Planning Commission
Councillor Brice Ferguson said the MPC gave permanent approval to a couple of home-based businesses at its most recent meeting. It turned down a request for variances on a garage project, as being outside its scope of authority. With that, it goes to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board. If that body turns it down, the owners would have to tear down what they’ve already built and start over, the MPC was advised at its Dec. 7 meeting.
If that happens, asked councillor Ferguson (at the MPC meeting), what’s the process for tearing down a partially-constructed building? Answer: you have to apply for a permit to do that as well. The structure in question is apparently three quarters up.
Also approved was an application for a restaurant – a donair shop.
The MPC is looking for another board member, added councillor Brandle.
Economic development: ‘moving in the right direction.’
At least a couple of members of council participated in a meeting with the town’s ec/dev officer and a company engaged recently to provide further services in that area. Mayor Warman, in his concluding remarks called it “a great engagement.”
Earlier in the meeting, councillor McGregor, speaking of the same meeting, called it “one of the best meetings I’ve attended for a really long time. I think we’re moving in the right direction, faster than I thought we would.”
‘Excitement over the weekend’
Warman’s final comments had mainly to do with the COVID situation. He mentioned an incident from the previous weekend where somebody complained about the number of people congregating at an outdoor skating rink. The RCMP visited and told the people that only 10 were allowed at once on the ice.
The town was not involved in that, but of course the mayor got to hear about it.
“We’re not out to hammer people,” he said. “But when complaints come in, they have to be dealt with.”
The Leader heard more or less the same thing from the RCMP. We don’t like to interfere in situations like that, said Staff Sgt. Don Racette. But if somebody complains….. we have to enforce the rules.
Warman continued, saying although the infection numbers are higher than they were last spring, it feels different.
“I don’t feel like I’m looking into an abyss this time,” he said. “There is hope and sometimes hope is all you need to get through.”
Warman noted that it is going to be a very strange Christmas not being able to have friends and family over.
“But across Alberta we’re losing the battle, and numbers are up here in town.”
He urged people to “keep talking, reaching out. Sometimes all you need is a phone call to get through it.”