Feb. 9, 2021 meeting
Partial opening for MRC looking likely at this point
As expected, partial re-opening of the town’s MRC (Multi Rec Centre) was mentioned in the CAO’s report for council. Recently announced changes in government health restrictions had it looking as if a partial reopening was possible, said David Kim. Exactly what it would look like wasn’t yet clear. Kim said staff was preparing the facility “and scheduling with all user groups.”
Business license activity
The score on business licences in the month of January was three down and one up. Three were canceled and one new one was granted. Do we know why those three were canceled? asked councillor Brice Ferguson. We don’t, said Kim.
On a related note, Kim’s report also included statistics from the latest Municipal Planning Commission meeting: the MPC gave permanent approval to four home-based businesses, and temporary approval to two more.
Not a fan of government by Twitter
Councillor Joy McGregor had something to say about how the town learned about recent changes to COVID-related health restrictions. It happened over the weekend, she said, via Facebook and Twitter, which had the predictable effect of catching town councillors off guard when their phones started ringing. Some sort of ‘heads-up’ to municipal leaders would be nice, she said.
“I feel we could do a better job, as a province, with communication.”
Council gave the required three readings to pass a supplementary assessment bylaw. This is an annual exercise that allows the town to collect a bit of extra taxes on properties that are under construction during the year.
The example given in council’s agenda was of a house that is partially completed in December of the year. In that condition it would be assessed at a certain value. The finished house would be assessed at its final value sometime during the year, and the difference be due at the end of the year.
“Very little revenue is generated,” said finance director Roland Schmidt. “However, enough to justify passing the bylaw.”
Council did just that.
Housing: ‘We just want to know what’s going on’
Councillor Julie Brandle informed her colleagues that the board of the Slave Lake Regional Housing Authority was looking forward to a meeting with the Minister of Seniors and Housing on Feb. 16. The topic will be the affordable housing project that has been stalled for the past number of years. Various scenarios have been proposed for moving forward, but nothing has happened.
“We just want to know what’s going on,” Brandle said.
Apparently the minister has been waiting for the results of a study on housing. MLA Dan Williams was also expected to attend the meeting.
In other housing news, Brandle said the lodge is COVID-free, and as such, the residents are free to mingle and enjoy activities together – something people living on their own are not able to do much of.
Health: mental health issues come into focus, alarmingly
Councillor Joy McGregor presented news from the folks in health care, and some of it was quite disturbing. There has been an upswing in the number of people contemplating suicide, she said, describing this as an “almost weekly” occurrence. “Harsh judgments and rude comments” on social media, she said (or implied) are contributing to this dire situation.
“Maybe a little less judgment,” is in order, McGregor said.
In other news from the family care clinic, it is open and has never shut down during the pandemic. Masks are being handed out to people arriving, McGregor said. It’s required that people wear these ones, rather than the ones they showed up in.
In January, 15 babies were born in the hospital in Slave Lake
McGregor said library staff are doing good work under the circumstances – those being that the library continues to be closed to the public. Curbside pickup of borrowed items is still being practiced.
When the library does re-open, she said, there will be space on the art wall for displays of local art, if anyone is interested in that.
Airport Commission: landings sharply down in 2020
Landings at the airport in 2020 were sharply down from the unusually high numbers in 2019, reported councillor Brice Ferguson. Both numbers were presented as anomalous.
Another number in Ferguson’s report was the 30 feet of airport property lost to last year’s high water in the lake. A firm has been hired to study what to do about securing the bank from further erosion. The traditional method is planting trees, but that can’t be done in this situation.
The final item in Ferguson’s report had to do with a parcel of land on the southwest edge of the airport lands. It is being considered for development, perhaps for aircraft storage. The only access, however, would be through Big Fish Bay.
This and that: no surveillance cameras
An item that came up at a council meeting last March has finally been dealt with. It had to do with the possibility of setting up surveillance cameras at the various entry/exit points to the town. Councillor Darin Busk said at the time he’d heard Lac La Biche had such a set-up and it had helped police there nab some criminals.
Kim said administration had looked into it, and found it not to be feasible, for reasons of cost.
However, added the mayor, admin. will be developing a crime reduction strategy “with tools that already exist.”
Bus exit from CJS not looking all that promising
In November, the High Prairie School Division approached the town with the idea of adding an exit from the school bus compound at CJ Schurter School onto Caribou Trail.
All things considered, said Kim, “we’re not recommending it.”
Not that it’s impossible, “but it’s going to be quite expensive.”
Curling club asks for support
The Slave Lake Curling Association is requesting help from the town in covering its operating costs. A letter to that effect was in council’s agenda, asking for $19,800 for 2021.
The letter, signed by club president Ryan Norman, covers the recent accomplishments of the club in presenting programs and expanding the game. It also lists challenges the club faces, including a loss of revenue due to COVID, and the aging ice plant.
Council did not debate the proposal or make a decision. Mayor Tyler Warman’s general comment was (in part) that groups “can’t bank on ongoing funding for these things.”