Jan. 11, 2022 meeting
Snow and ice
In his report for council, interim CAO Garry Roth said snow-clearing was proceeding through the residential neighbourhoods. Hauling of downtown snow was expected for the following week.
On a related note, mayor Tyler Warman said he’d taken a couple of calls from residents concerned about icy streets. What he told them was in extreme cold, the salt the town puts down is ineffective. It just lies there and gets blown away.
Now that it’s warmed up, he said, other problems crop up, related to melting and freezing.
Other items from Roth’s CAO report included long service awards, work on a economic development plan, recruitment for vacant positions, work on year-end financials and a reminder that penalties for late tax payments rose on Jan. 1.
Nineteen calls for service to the regional fire service the previous week, Roth informed council. A dozen of them were motor vehicle collisions – some due to poor driving conditions. There were also two notable structure fires – one in town and one in the M.D.
Town peace officers had a busy year, with 716 calls for services. Sixty-nine of those came in the last month. They also helped out on some RCMP calls and on a house fire. They were busy over the holidays looking after animals in the town’s pound.
Turkey dinners were prepared and distributed to 10 isolated senior clients. FCSS also partnered with the candy cane checkstop and with an impaired driving presentation to Grade 4 students. Prizes were also provided for the house-decorating contest.
Rec and programming
Ice at the MRC was rented out 21 times over the Christmas break. Glow skate events had 50 participants. Sixty-seven craft kits were given out for the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ program. Frost Fest 2022 planning is underway.
New Family and Community Support Services coordinator Darcy Hoover brought council up to speed on where the program is at. Preventive social services is how Hoover described the FCSS mandate. In 2021 these included courses for kids on being home alone, babysitting courses, supports for seniors (snow-shoveling, for example), anger education, volunteer tax program and others.
Hoover also mentioned something called ‘community supports resource document. What’s that, asked councillor Kimberly Hughes. It’s a list of all the supports that exist in town, with 1-800 and local numbers. It will be distributed and be available on the town website, she said.
Proposed for 2022 are ‘youth nights.’ What’s that, asked mayor Warman. Evening programs, a couple of times a week for Grade 6 – 12 students. Hoover said she hopes to run programs outdoors as much as possible. Some sports, but “I’m looking for other things – team-building stuff for teens.” The plan is to start in April.
Last year the town applied for and got a grant to study barriers immigrants face when moving to town and ways to help with integration. The town worked with a Calgary organization to study the situation and generate a report, with input from community stakeholders. Jill Hutchings, the town’s acting director of community services, summarized the results for council.
One recommendation in the report is to develop a ‘welcome initiative,’ including a welcome package for newcomers. Another is a ‘volunteer ambassador’ program, which would be a network of residents willing to help new residents adjust.
Hutchings said the plan is to do these things within the existing town budget.
Commenting on the report, Warman said, “There’s a lot of quick wins in here. First impressions are really important.”
ATCO franchise agreement
The agreement between the town and ATCO is up for renewal. Council had deferred the decision pending more information, so they got another report on it with more details.
“It still leaves a lot of questions,” said councillor Steve Adams, “but I’m in favour of extending the term.”
He made a motion to that effect, which was carried. So the agreement will carry on for another five years. It’s worth about $1.4 million to the town – which of course gets passed on to ATCO power and gas customers. Whether or not to change the rate the town charges under the agreement is a separate question.
“We could cut that,” said Warman, “but we’d have to cut services or raise taxes to compensate.”
Chamber of Commerce
Reporting on the most recent Chamber meeting, councillor Francesca Giroux said the focus right now is organizing a trade show for the spring. What it’s going to look like, given pandemic restrictions, remains to be seen.
Alberta North Central Alliance
Warman said this group had just met the day before – or at least seven of the 10 municipal partners had. They each made presentations on how their respective governments worked, “what we’re trying to accomplish, frustrations and limitations.”
It was a useful exercise, Warman said.
Big Lakes County is spearheading a grant application for the group.
“We’re moving ahead,” Warman said.
Regional housing authority
Councillor Ferguson said at the Dec. 15 meeting, the board heard from a provincial rep about the government’s goal of adding 25,000 affordable housing units over the next few years. There was also talk about tax exemptions for affordable housing property owners. But some are concerned about shifting tax burden to the general tax base, Ferguson said.
The tri-council health committee met in December. One thing they heard, said councillor Giroux, was that there’s a full complement of doctors, but some nurse practitioner vacancies. If there were longer than usual wait times for appointments with doctors over the holiday period, it wasn’t because of a shortage of doctors, she added.
Adding to the report, Warman said despite the full complement of physicians in Slave Lake, there is another one who wants to practice and settle down here. He was given a tour of the community and area recently. He is a GP and a surgeon, Warman said and seems quite keen on putting down roots in Slave Lake.
Councillor Shawn Gramlich said this group is putting the finishing touches on an ‘All-In’ winter festival on the Family Day long weekend in February. It will be in conjunction with the town’s Frost Fest event and (so far) includes a Kids Can Catch ice fishing event at Widewater, sled drags at Big Fish Bay, with skating and horse-drawn wagon rides, plus “other things I can’t announce yet.” The dates are Feb. 19 – 21.
Councillor Steve Adams reported that 60 businesses are signed up so far for the ‘Love Local, Shop Local’ campaign. A customer service training program is being organized; so is a program of ‘micro’ loans, for downtown beautification purposes.
“Lots going on,” said councillor Ferguson. He went on to report about the shelter moving to a new location “in the nick of time,” just before Christmas. The shelter was able to open during the day as well thanks to a grant. Daytime programming has been added.
However, a permanent location is still elusive. If anyone has any ideas, please contact us, Ferguson said. Immediately needed is a freezer for storing food.
Letter on Swan Hills plant
In council’s package was a letter from an individual asking for Town of Slave Lake support in lobbying the federal government for funding to keep the waste treatment plant near that community viable. The letter outlined the reasons why the plant has fallen on hard times. Provincial government funding has been cut, and jobs have been lost.
The letter writer, Chris Lockhart, asks the town to post the attached petition at the town office.
“I don’t know who this person is,” said mayor Warman. “It would be prudent to reach out to our municipal counterparts in the \Town of Swan Hills and ask for some direction.”