Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

May 11, 2021 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Isolating

CAO David Kim’s update for council included the news that two town employees are in isolation due to contact with a person or persons with COVID 19. In related news, the town office continues to be closed to the public. Visits are by appointment only, and only on Thursdays and Fridays.

Street sweeping

Sweeping of streets has started and will continue off and on for some time. It’s helpful to the town if vehicles are not parked on the street when they are being swept. To find out the sweeping schedule, Kim said in his report, check out the town’s website. Pothole fixing is also happening according to a schedule, also posted on the website.

Service levels for ball diamonds

Councillor Darin Busk asked if baseball is going ahead under the new COVID restrictions. And if not, is the town going to reduce its service levels in ball field maintenance?
Answering, community services director Garry Roth said what will be allowed will not be known until after the current three-week round of restrictions is over. If it turns out the fields aren’t needed, the town would revert to “more of a basic maintenance on the fields.”

Gloryland open house

Councillor Joy McGregor asked how the open house on Gloryland road upgrades went. Specifically, she was interested in how many people took part. Eighteen residents, was the answer.
“So not many,” she said.
“We thought it was okay,” Kim responded, adding that more information was being mailed out.
Councillor Rebecca King added that she thought town project manager Kush Patel had done “a great job,” in presenting the information in the session, and the contractor’s contributions were also very helpful.

Year-end

Council received a brief report on the audited financial statements for 2020. The bottom line was the town ended up with a budget surplus for the year. This was in spite of unexpected costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those were more than offset by provincial support, plus cost-reductions due to layoffs and some operating costs, such as power. The surplus was $494,000.
Commenting on that number, mayor Warman said while it’s good to not be in the red, it’s also not good to have too much of a surplus, because the question can reasonably be asked if the town’s taxes are higher than they need to be.
As to that, Warman pointed out the half-million-dollar hit to the bottom line the town faces over the demolition of two derelict motels last year. It’s not recorded as such yet, because the town still hopes to collect from the property owners, but likely won’t.
“These numbers are very fluid,” the mayor concluded.

Social needs

Administration was back, as requested, with more on the recent social needs assessment for the town. It identifies seven areas, or themes, as follows: mental health supports, basic needs, safe neighbourhoods, reconciliation, diversity and inclusion, social infrastructure and (lastly) cooperation and collaboration.
In three of these areas, the town has a hands-on role to play, said Roth. These are the safety one, diversity and inclusion and the collaboration piece. In the other areas, the town (mainly through its FCSS department), sees itself in a complementary role.
Councillor McGregor again expressed her leeriness of any approach that focuses on new needs and wants and seems to ignore “the assets we have.”
“We don’t use what we have already!” she said – or at least don’t use it to its full capacity.
The question for council, said mayor Warman is whether the town is spending its money in the right areas. He asked admin. to bring back a report on “action items.”

Economic development

That transportation survey you’ve been hearing about was supposed to have happened already, but has been postponed due to (you guessed it), COVID. This was part of the report to council on the first quarter work of the town’s economic development department, I.e. Leah Jones.
The survey is quite ambitious in its scope. It aims to get an idea of the volume and value of commodities being trucked past Slave Lake. It will take about a dozen hours of stopping trucks in two locations (Hwys. 2 and 88) and asking the drivers some questions.
Jones said the logistics for the Hwy. 2 survey have been worked out (it will be at the weigh scales). The Hwy. 88 one is trickier and still needs to be figured out.
Conversations with various businesses is part of the ec/dev officer’s mandate. Asked how that is going, Jones said it varies. In some cases, business people are looking for information about the area, and she helps with that. It may or may not lead to something.
“If we bring them across the finish line, it could be big for the town,” she said.

Tourism

Councillor Julie Brandle said the most recent meeting of this group was “really good.” One thing being discussed is “ideas in winter tourism.”
Tourism promotions are being worked on, as is the Slave Lake region website. Familiarization tours were being organized, but have been postponed. An alternative idea is to produce videos containing information about local attractions/services.

Library

Back to curbside pick-up, reported councillor McGregor. Participation in online programs is waning – possibly due to warmer weather. But the library’s ‘Craft-in-a-Bag’ program is proving to be a big hit.
“Kids and families really like it,” she said.
Staff and some board members will be taking a course called ‘Homeless in the Library,” McGregor said.

Steep price tag on erosion control

Councillor Ferguson, reporting on the airport commission, talked about the lakeside land being lost to erosion – last year in particular, but over time. A consultant predicts dire consequences for the airport if it isn’t stopped. However, the recommended method is estimated to cost $4.7 million, “funds the airport does not have.”
In other news, the airport perimeter fencing project “started today,” Ferguson said.
Warman asked which side of the airport road the fence was going on. The north side, said Ferguson. So that will block access to the road for the public? Warman asked. That’s correct, Ferguson said. It’s a private road.

Mayor’s corner: ‘Quiet and uneventful’

Warman concluded the open portion of the meeting with remarks on a recent meeting with the new manager of Slave Lake Pulp, and the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Slave Lake wildfire disaster.
Warman said he suggested to the new mill manager that regular chats with the big operators at the Mitsue Industrial Park is something town council would like to get into.
As for the disaster anniversary, Warman made a point of thanking all those who helped Slave Lake get through the incident, including the individual citizens.
As for the actual marking of the day, or days (May 14 and 15), Warman said people will recognize it in their own ways.
“I hope things are quiet and uneventful,” he said.

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