Aug. 15, 2017
Size matters in waterline
The town’s Main St. North waterline replacement project is “well into the engineering phase,” reported CAO Brian Vance.
Mayor Tyler Warman had a question: With the M.D. just recently back on board and wanting a new line to its customers on the north end of Main St., how does that fit in with the engineering? In other words, the engineering was proceeding based on the assumption the M.D. portion of water line wasn’t going to be replaced.
It won’t change how the town customers are serviced, Vance said. There are still some details to be worked out on what size of a line would be put in along the north end of Main St. But the town customers on that section (there are just three) are going to be fully serviced via the new line on Tamarack Rd. Vance said the M.D. has in mind a three-inch line to look after the needs of its five customers on the north end of Main St. He thinks a four-incher would be more likely; it’d do for the existing customers, “but not for hydrants or future expansion.”
As for the actual work, “we’re going to be the prime contractor,” Vance said. “It’ll make it easier to hire local people.”
The project was undertaken because the old line between the airport road and the river is falling apart.
Responding to a report that the ‘recovery’ sidewalk deficiencies had all be taken care of, mayor Warman indicated he’d received a phone call suggesting they weren’t. Vance said he’d look into it.
As for the other big sidewalk and gutter repair project, Vance said it was nearly complete, with 60 sites having been repaired.
“The new sidewalks look great,” said councillor Julie Brandle.
One thing about the new stretches of sidewalk is how shabby they make the adjacent older ones look by comparison. One of these is along Main St. by E.G. Wahlstrom School. Is the town planning on trimming the weeds that are growing up through the cracks on the remaining section of sidewalk along there?, asked councillor Darin Busk.
It’s probably the responsibility of the abutting property owner, said Vance. He added it would have been nice to replace that entire stretch of sidewalk, but it was too pricy. The section that was done, on the north end of that block, cost a cool $50,000.
Repairs to the pool
Northern Lights Aquatic Centre manager Breanne Paulson made a pitch to council for funds to complete pool repairs this year, rather than next. This required an allocation of just under $57,000 in unbudgeted cash.
Paulson explained the reasoning: A fair-sized flaw in the paint on the floor of the shallow end of the pool had been discovered. For safety reasons it was considered important to get it fixed right away. Doing so would require the pool to be drained, Paulson said. The thinking is that since the pool has to be drained anyway, maintenance that would have been done next year might as well be done this year. It would mean next year’s annual shut-down would not have to be longer than one day. Otherwise, there’d be a much longer shutdown, two years in a row.
“Get it done,” was councillor Busk’s opinion and he made a motion to that effect. It was carried unanimously.
Council heard there’s a good possibility of half the cost being covered by Northern Lakes College, although there is still some negotiating to be done on that. The pool shut down is scheduled from Aug. 28 to Oct. 10.
Change in utility accounts (your landlord is watching)
Town utility accounts for renters will now be in the name of both the renter and the landlord. This is something council had discussed earlier in the year as a way of improving the chances of collecting on rental property accounts. The effect, council heard, is that if there’s a default in payment, the landlord will know about it and perhaps prevent it from dragging on.
Council also heard that several other municipalities have enacted the same system with good results.
However, it will only be applied on new accounts. Existing ones won’t be changed.
Council also heard that the deposit on new accounts can be applied to amounts in arrears if a renter has skipped out without paying his or her water bills. And if the deposit doesn’t cover what’s owed? A new account can’t be set up for that address until the debt is cleared off.
Council gave all three readings to the new bylaw.
Council also was advised there are several tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid utility accounts over the past few years. Some administrative changes have already been made that have improved collection rates. The above measure is expected to do even more.
New user fees, etc.
Council approved a revamped version of the town policies on user fees and other matters regarding the use of town rec facilities. In some cases it formalizes procedures the town is already following but aren’t actually written in policy.
Other items are new; one example of this is a new set of fees for using town space for storage. Some groups have been doing this, free of charge. Groups will be advised, said Ruth Rolfe, making the presentation.
Other items dealt with: prepayment for bookings, discounted ice rentals, ice time cancellation, age requirements, waiving of fees, ice user contracts.
New rates for rec facilities
In a related matter, council approved a new set of rates for rental of town recreational facilities. Reporting on it, Rolfe said the changes were “minor,” and added they are now more consistent across the board.
Making the motion to approve, councillor Busk said, “it’s not cost-recovery by any means,” but workable.
New snow removal policy for sidewalks
Per council direction, administration had come up with a new policy for snow removal on sidewalks that should save the town $20,000 next year.
As reported earlier, the idea is that ‘designated’ sidewalks would no longer be cleared by the town, but revert to the normal responsibility of abutting property owners. That’s the way it is in most of the town, but on certain busier streets the town has been clearing sidewalks.
This was seen as giving the property owners there a free ride, creating an unfair situation to the ones who are expected to do the work themselves. The idea is the town will continue to clear sidewalks adjacent to its own property, but nowhere else.
However, after responding property owners unanimously opposed the new responsibility (along Main St. south of the railway tracks), the town will retain snow-clearing duties on that section of town only.
Downtown, it should be noted, is exempt from the new provisions. Snow hauling from that area will continue as usual.
“I think this is the way to go,” said Busk, making the motion.
Community Standards bylaw updated
Council approved an amended version of the Community Standards bylaw with little or no discussion. The new version – among other things – gives the peace officers a bit more leeway in deciding how to respond to ‘neighbour disputes.’ Another new thing is to specify that complaints about neighbouring properties will only be considered legitimate if what is being complained about can be seen from ground level. Another new section deals with people using unoccupied buildings. The penalty for a first offence in the latter case has been set at $1,000; $2,000 for the second.
Extra funding for MRC upgrades
Unanticipated expenses in the upgrade program for the multi-rec centre have arisen. Council was asked to approve $41,000 in extra spending for a few items. $15,000 of it is for rebuilding a glycol pump and a tank, boiler parts and repairs to an air conditioning condenser and a fan. Another $26,000 is for a boiler pump system to replace hot water tanks.
“I hate spending money,” said councillor Mark Missal, making the first motion, “but we’d better do it right.”
Councillor Julie Brandle agreed, and made the second motion.
Money for park upgrades
The trend of over-ages in spending continued with upgrades to the southwest quadrant park. Rolfe reported that the gravel base for the playground turned out to be much costlier than estimated.
Why? Because getting it up to code required a lot more gravel. Adding to the cost was the need to improve drainage off the site. Lights are also above budget, as is the parking lot upgrade. All told, costs are $17,000 higher than expected.
Also recommended in the report was to spend $25,000 to refurbish the Hilda Eben Park playground. That would include a new sand fill, new border and repair or replacement of benches. Rolfe said the work was expected to be done in the next couple of weeks.
Reporting on his mayoral activities in the month since the last council meeting, Warman started off by saying he’d attended interviews for the new RCMP staff sergeant position, but couldn’t provide any details. Otherwise:
Warman met with the mayor of Kabelias Lebanon, who is interested in pursuing some sort of partnership between the two municipalities.
Softwood lumber meeting – Warman met with government and industry people for a briefing on the issues and prospects involved in selling Canadian lumber in the U.S. The impression he got is progress is being made.
Northern Alberta Elected Leaders – at a meeting in Peace River, Warman said he got the impression rural municipalities are quite worked up about something called the ‘duty to consult,’ on development that happens within their borders.
“They’re trying to understand the cost and expectation,” he said.
As far as inter-jurisdictional cooperation goes, Warman said the agreement and relationship between the town, M.D. and Sawridge First Nation is way ahead of where some municipalities appear to be.
“Some can’t even have lunch with each other,” he said, while others are further ahead, he admitted.
The province is talking about forcing municipalities to cooperate, and making them nervous.
The southwest quadrant (‘nacho cheese’) park seems to be a popular place, with its new rubberized play surface. Also coming are improvements to the parking lot and drainage.