Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Dec.15, 2020 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Good news on the health front: town employees who were tested for COVID have their results back and are in the clear. As of Dec. 14 all town employees were reporting as healthy and all systems were ‘go.’
That was the lead item in CAO David Kim’s update for council, which got things rolling at the Dec. 15 meeting. As with all such meetings lately, it was done entirely via tele-conference technology, with no in-person portion at the council chambers. The only glitch was that councillor Julie Brandle’s audio wasn’t working properly for the first part of the meeting.

Tax sale notices

Several properties in town will go up for sale by auction in February if tax payment arrangements aren’t made before then. Kim’s update for council included the news that letters to the owners have been sent by registered mail. The town hopes the owners can be induced to enter a “tax recovery contract” before the end of December.
We got some details wrong in last week’s council notes on the tax recovery sale item. The date for the auction is Feb. 26, not Feb. 25. As for the value of the properties going up for sale (if in fact they do), the town will be advertising all that, presumably on its website, when the time comes.
Otherwise tax arrears letters on other outstanding accounts will be going out. Penalties kick in on Jan. 1.

Fire service

The LSL Regional Fire Service continues to be busy with issuing ‘occupancy load certificates.’ This is something new – having to do with the province’s COVID restrictions. It’s up to the fire department to determine what the number of people allowed in a certain space is. Listed in the CAO’s report were six new recipients of the certificates – four of them stores, one restaurant and one church.
Other than that, the fire department responded to seven calls for service during the previous week – three medical co-responses, one motor vehicle collision, one alarm, one search and rescue and one called ‘AHS assist.’

New surface repair uses scrap rubber

Following up from the previous week’s report, CAO Kim had more information on a new type of road surface repair technology that the town is interested in. It’s called ‘Plastasphalt,’ and in spite of the name, involves rubber, not plastic. Recycled rubber from car tires, to be exact. It’s applied at a high temperature to roads, at a relatively low cost. Kim said the company will be able to demonstrate it in January.
This sounded a bit odd to councillor Darin Busk, given how cold it is likely to be that month, and he said so.
We’ll evaluate it, Kim said. Apparently the City of Calgary has used it and is happy with the results.

Road closures at the airport

This item has been in process for at least the past three years and has been slowed down by various roadblocks. Council learned back in 2017 that bits and pieces of airport property are actually registered as roads with Alberta Land Titles. Let’s get them off the books was the consensus back then, and the process was launched. It seemed a slam dunk, but it wasn’t quite as simple as the parties expected. The first thing was the discovery that an old cemetery was in the picture. That was taken care of. More recently, some other technicality resulted in the application being rejected by Alberta Land Titles. So council was being asked to approve of the transfer of the lands in question to the Slave Lake Airport Commission.
Councillor Julie Brandle asked if there was any liability involved in the scheme. Possible but unlikely, was the answer, more or less. Typically such a transfer would require a formal agreement, but “because the parcels are small, have been in use by the airport for many years, there is a small chance of there being an issue with respect to existing defect or contamination.”
That was good enough for council and it got seven thumbs up.

Signs for industrial parks?

Council was asked to consider options for new signs identifying two industrial parks. These were recently given names – ‘Caribou’ and ‘Boreal’ Industrial Parks. Caribou is the one Caribou Trail runs through and Boreal is the one in the northeast.
Three options were presented. One is that the town would purchase and install signs at the entrances to the parks that simply identify their names.
Another is a ‘business directory’ type of sign, which the town would maintain after installing. The third option has the town advertising for expressions of interest in purchasing, installing and maintaining such business directory signs. That’s the one that was recommended, and council voted in favour of it.

More businesses than last year

The CAO update included the interesting tidbit that there are more businesses operating in Slave Lake – or at least licensed – than there were a year ago. The town sends out business license renewal notices at this time of year, and this year’s total was 507. Last year the number of license renewal notices was 468.

Hilltop reservoir wrap-up

Kush Patel, the town’s project manager, brought council up to speed on the upgrade to the hilltop water reservoir, which took place over much of the 2020 construction season. The 50-year-old facility was suffering from some wear and tear and needed new process piping and valve chamber. The scope of work included some crack repairs on the reservoir and some landscaping.
Patel’s report included the discovery of a defect that was not in the original scope of work. This was a faulty valve at the bottom of the hill that wasn’t shutting completely. This was solved by adding an isolation valve, and the project remained within budget.
Patel said the town’s utility crew was able to begin re-filling the reservoir in October. Water quality tests then had to be passed and were passed.
The budget for the project was $1.68 million. It finished under budget by $54,122.
“Is it fully operational?” asked councillor Brice Ferguson. Hearing that it is, he said when COVID dies down, he’d like a tour of the place.
Council accepted the report as information.

Drawing of the new valve house at the hilltop reservoir.
The new valve house under construction this past summer.

Live streaming council meetings

Back in June, council asked town admin. to investigate options for continued live-streaming of council meetings (in other words, making them available for viewing online as they happen). Accordingly, communications coordinator Christopher Brown had a report for council with a couple of options.
One of the options was to continue using the service called ‘Zoom,’ for an annual cost of just under $1,000. The other was to engage an Edmonton company for a one-time cost of $20,000. No thanks, said council to the $20,000 option, and that was pretty much that.
Mayor Warman did say that it would be better (once council starts meeting again in council chambers) to have a system that shows remote viewers a closer view of who is talking. But no decision was made on whatever that would take. Council will discuss it further in January.

Legacy Centre

Warman reported that the Wildfire Legacy Corporation has approved its 2021 budget. Perhaps unexpectedly, it’s similar to the 2020 version. Revenues were down drastically in 2020, Warman said, but so were expenses. That situation will continue for a while longer.
“We can’t use the space for anything now,” he said, not counting the daycare and the upstairs tenant, which continue their use.

Letters: on contact tracing apps and the Boreal Centre

Council had a couple of letters in its agenda package. The mayor mentioned them briefly, provoking no discussion.
The first one was from the City of Cold Lake. Council there is urging the provincial government to switch contact-tracing apps from the provincial one to a federal one. It is seeking support for this idea from fellow municipalities.
Warman’s only comment: “I don’t want to get involved in that debate.”
Letter #2 was from the High Prairie School Division. It states the benefits to HPSD students provided by the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation in the winter months. It urges the province to reconsider the cuts that resulted in the closure of the facility during those months.
“I think there’s progress being made there,” said the mayor, adding he expects an announcement from the province sometime fairly soon.

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