April 12, 2022 meeting
Compensation for council will have to wait
Council heard first from the chair of the council compensation committee, Srini Jayaraman. He explained that the committee (made up of citizens) was recommending a modest increase in the amount councillors are compensated for the time they put in. The thinking, he said, was that to attract good people, you need to offer decent compensation.
However, council did not make a decision on the recommendation, one way or the other. Instead, they voted to defer the decision and deal with it at the same time as a review of salaries for town staff is scheduled.
“This is always awkward,” was how mayor Tyler Warman led off the discussion.
Normally, a council decides on changes to council compensation at the end of its term. For various reasons (Warman mentioned “capacity issues,”) that didn’t happen before the election last fall. So the new council has to make a decision, as awkward as it may be.
Councillor Steve Adams was for getting on with it. He said he didn’t see the point in putting it off.
“There’s no way in hell we’re going to take the same increases as staff,” he said.
Adams added: “Does anybody know what we actually get paid?”
Councillor Francesca Giroux did, and shared the information. $12,500 for councillors and $23,000 for the mayor.
Councillor Julie Brandle made it plain where she stands.
“I’m not in favour of increases to council,” she said. “Whether we do it now or in a few months.”
The motion to table the decision passed by a 5 – 2 vote. It would not be the last split decision of the evening.
Potholes and cracks
The condition and treatment of roads potholes came up in question period, as it inevitably does. Noticing in the CAO’s report that crack-filling using Plastasphalt is scheduled, councillor Brandle asked if the product is still being tested. She’d heard a week earlier that ‘the jury was out’ on the new patching method, because some peeling had been noticed.
Calvin Couturier, the public works director, said yes, there had been a small percentage of failure with some of the Plastasphalt patches. But on the whole, he said, the department is very pleased with how it has come through the winter. The trouble spots were on patches that run across the road. The ones that parallel the traffic are showing no problems at all, he said.
“We used it in the Boston Pizza parking lot,” said mayor Warman. “It’s better than anything else we’ve used.”
The town will also be using the conventional ‘hot pour’ asphalt patching material in certain spots, Couturier said. It is quick, and not that expensive (and with three asphalt plants expected to be operating in town this year, readily available), but even “the brooms on our sweepers can peel it out on a hot day.”
Recycle depot to get cleaned up
Couturier informed council the town’s recycle depot will be cleaned up again this spring by a couple of high school groups. The schools use it as a fundraiser and the town gets all the loose trash picked up. Couturier said how it works is one group cleans inside the fence and the other tackles the material that blew out of the enclosure over the past year, including into the trees to the east.
Two bodies short
Mayor Warman asked the director how the public works crew is coping, being two people short of the full complement of six in this busy time. If it gets too tough, what are the possibilities for hiring contractors to do some of the work, he asked.
Not for sweeping, Couturier said. Pothole filling – maybe, but “it would be expensive.”
However, he said, “I’m pretty confident we can keep up.”
Street-sweeping has started, but without water until it warms up.
How about taking the Christmas decorations off the tree in Citizen’s Park? asked councillor Hughes.
“Next on the list,” said Couturier.
Tax sale next steps
As predicted, by the time the town’s tax recovery auction sale took place on April 4, the number of properties up for sale had declined sharply. This is the usual outcome, with owners making last-minute arrangements to settle their delinquent accounts. Four properties, however, did go up for sale on that date, and not a single bid was received.
What are the next steps, asked mayor Warman.
“Moving toward ownership,” without outright owning the properties was how it was explained. There are various options.
Rennie Hall Plaza
Councillor Ferguson asked about the schedule for the resumption of the Rennie Hall Plaza project. Stepping up to answer that one was town project manager Kush Patel. He said the contractor plans to drill test holes “by the end of this month,” and based on the story they tell, decisions will be made about how and when to proceed with the rest of the project, “after the frost is out.”
What’s your best guess for an end date, asked councillor Gramlich.
End of July, said Patel, depending on the weather.
Council got a report on dust control service levels. It’s a bit of a contentious issue in town, mainly because it never seems to get done early enough.
The timing of it was part of department director Calvin Couturier’s report. There’s no point in doing it before the frost is out of the ground, he said. It’s not the first thing done at that point; graveling comes first.
Dust control costs the town about $94,000 per year. That’s for a single application. A second one would add $25,000.
No changes to the policies were proposed.
SL Regional Housing
Good news for the town from the latest housing authority meeting, provided by councillor Ferguson. It turns out the M.D. of Lesser Slave River was “under-billed” by the authority last year. The mistake having been discovered, cheques are now in the mail to the other municipal partners to compensate them for what they were over-billed. Council heard the amount for Slave Lake is around $6,000.
Other news: the housing authority has put its former office up for sale. It’s a modular unit in the alley next to Vanderwell Heritage Place.
Councillor Hughes reported just over 1,000 people participated in library programs last month. Staff are moving toward “pre-pandemic” status and hoped to be there by the middle of this month.
News from the tri-council health advisory committee is that a couple of nurses will be doing one-month practicums in Slave Lake in May. The group is also advocating for chemotherapy to be restored in Slave Lake, as well as what mayor Warman called “enhanced surgical services.” Business cases need to be worked up and presented to Alberta Health Services.
“It doesn’t happen quickly,” Warman said.
Other news: the hospital and clinic saw 12,000 individual patients in the past 12 months. The five per cent no-show rate for appointments could be better. Current wait times for doctor appointments average 14 days; for nurse practitioners, it’s 20 days, thanks to a shortage.
Councillor Adams reported loan activity is picking up – a good sign. The organization is holding a conference on May 26 called ‘Spark the North.’ It focuses on the challenges of finding and keeping employees.
Finally, plans are underway for another Lemonade Day event in Slave Lake. CF is looking for “mini-entrepreneurs,” Adams said.
Councillor Ferguson’s report on this group included statistics. Over the season just now ending, the shelter had 1,423 overnight stays, by 100 individuals, averaging 9.4 stays per night. That’s as of April 1. It closed on April 18.
Next step? “Planning for the 2022/23 winter season,” Ferguson said.
The numbers are in for 2021 and the airport had a $70,000 surplus, Ferguson said. That money will be put into three different reserve funds.
The airport is planning to buy the equipment to apply a liquid de-icer to the runway. It will replace a kind of de-icer in pellet form and reduce the time it takes to treat the whole runway by one hour and 40 minutes.
The investigation into shoreline stabilization (at the lake end of the property) continues. So far, Ferguson said it looks unaffordable.
“It does have the possibility of coming back to the town and M.D. as a liability issue,” he said.