Feb. 2, 2021 meeting
Council heard the town has applied for a federal program that covers up to half of the minimum wage for summer employees. CAO David Kim’s report said positions could be in parks maintenance, summer counselors and visitor info centre attendants. He also told council engineering interns could be part of the picture. Mayor Tyler Warman asked what sort of work they might do for the town. Assisting the project manager, he said.
What’s caustic soda freeze-up?
This was Warman’s question, after seeing that there have been issues with this happening. It’s apparently a problem in the water treatment plant. What the stuff is doing there in the first place wasn’t explained, but The Leader followed up with Calvin Couturier, the public works director and found it’s used in water treatment for pH and corrosion control.
Also causing problems and also not explained in the report: ‘Composite sampler freeze-up.’ Couturier explained this one as well. The sampling is an automatic process taking place at the wastewater lagoons. It involves a line that was freezing up, but it has been remedied, Couturier said.
Councillor Joy McGregor said she had been hearing from some people in town who are not happy with something that appeared on the town’s Facebook page. It has to do with mental health and comes by way of Alberta Health Services. The recommendations for improving mental health, apparently, are things that people aren’t allowed to do at the moment, due to health restrictions due to COVID.
“Let’s check before we share,” was McGregor’s suggestion.
McGregor also had something to say about the sound quality for the recent Municipal Planning Commission.
“It was really hard to hear,” she said. “It sounded like this (rustling paper).”
At that, McGregor suggested council return as soon as possible to in-person meetings.
“We need to earn back respect and trust for each other,” she said. “We do way better in person.”
CAO David Kim seemed to think it was do-able.
“We’ll just abide by all the protocols,” he said.
McGregor said if what it takes is sheets of plastic separating councillors, so be it.
“Let’s figure that out,” said the mayor.
Peace officers trying different hours
McGregor asked about town peace officers working later shifts and on weekends. Do they have the capacity for that?
“It’s a pilot project,” said Kim. “Til March. We’ll have to see how it works.”
Frost Fest filling up
Councillor Rebecca King made a point of thanking Garry Roth and the Community Services staff for working up an array of Frost Fest activities that people can do without violating health restrictions. “Thinking outside the box,” she called it. She added the activities, which require registration, were “already full!”
Points West lease to new owner
Points West Living’s housing complex for seniors in Slave Lake is being sold. The Town of Slave Lake has something to say about that, as the owner of the property on which the building sits. Accordingly, council had a report (of over 100 pages!) in its agenda package, mainly consisting of the terms of the lease between the town and Points West.
The question for council was whether it should approve of the transfer of the lease to the new owner. This is a company called Axium Infrastructure.
To make a very long story short, council approved an amended version of the lease (based on legal advice), to be transferred to Axium. One of the concerns the town has is that the new owner continues to provide “affordable tenant rental rates,” per the original agreement.
One interesting assertion that emerged in the discussion was that the ownership of the building passes to the town at the end of the 50-year period of the lease. Mayor Warman asked admin. to look into that.
“I’m not sure that’s true,” he said.
‘What a year it’s been’ – town enforcement annual report
Council heard the annual report from the town’s enforcement services branch, otherwise known as its peace officers. Making the report was the senior of the pair, Mark Becker, who appeared to be doing it from inside his vehicle.
The past year was slower than 2019, Becker said. There were 650 calls, compared to 809 in 2019. This was mainly attributed to COVID.
Not that there wasn’t plenty of work to do. One thing keeping them busy was dealing with animals.
“It took a lot of time,” said Becker.
Another notable thing about 2020: fewer complaints about homelessness/vagrancy.
“It was a much quieter year,” he said.
The department issued 323 tickets in 2020; in 2019 the number was 469.
Automated traffic enforcement
The number of hours Global Traffic Services operated in Slave Lake in 2020 was well down from previous years. Total hours of operation for the photo/laser units were 419. In 2019, it was 900 and the year before that was over 1,500 hours. One reason for the decrease is the program was ‘paused’ from March to July.
On the other hand, the number of tickets issued per hour was higher in 2020.
The program focuses on speeding and intersection safety.
The town’s current contract with Global ends at the end of this month. Mayor Warman asked that the company be encouraged to bring information on speeding trends when it makes its presentation to council at that time.
Budget behind schedule
Mayor Warman said sessions on the 2021 town budget had been delayed due to COVID, but council had finally got down to it, spending that entire day in budget discussions. Another full day was scheduled for Feb. 3.
“Hopefully we’ll have some welcome news for our residents,” he said.
M.D. of Bonnyville reaches out
The reeve of the M.D. of Bonnyville is fired up about a perceived lack of effective advocacy on behalf of Western Canadian municipalities by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). He had sent a letter to council to that effect, asking council to “reflect on the level of service,” and consider doing something about it.
The main issue, said reeve Greg Sawchuk, is the “lack of advocacy and blatant disregard at the federal level” for the oil and gas industry out west. He mentioned the “alienation and hostility” that western members experienced at the 2019 FCM annual conference in Quebec City.
Commenting on Sawchuk’s letter, Warman suggested reaching out to the FCM.
“Let’s get information before we decide whose bandwagon to jump on,” he said.
McIver responds to letter on rural busing
Also in council’s package was a letter from Alberta Minister of Transportation Ric McIver. It was in response to a letter the town had sent in support of companies providing rural passenger bus service.
The letter speaks of federal grant funding for public transit. It mentions other assistance programs as well.
“I’d be shocked if these companies don’t know this already,” said Warman.