Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

July 12, 2022

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

New CAO Jeff Simpson made his first verbal report at a council meeting, since starting the job on June 20. His first item of note was that the town is considering the purchase of an electric vehicle to replace one of its aging units. Simpson said the town could take advantage of grant funding for such purchases; plus, the vehicle would be able to use the charging station the town plans to install. The hardware for the charging station was expected to be shipped by June 30.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

The town’s Human Resources department is busy these days. Recently-filled positions include travel counsellors at the Visitor Info Centre, Summer Splash counsellors, a parks department operator and a summer fire student.

Positions still open at the town include another parks operator, admin. assistant, director of community services, economic development officer, parks department supervisor, equipment operator, peace officer, recreation assistants, senior firefighter, temporary firefighter and a senior lifeguard.

VIC picking up

The Visitor Information Centre is getting busier as the summer progresses, Simpson reported. People from all over Canada, the U.S. “and even some from overseas,” have been stopping in. Positive comments about the convenient location of the centre have been received.

Swimming lessons

Swimming lessons appear to be popular this summer. Simpson’s report said there are waiting lists for some of the age groups. Those probably don’t include adults, but there is demand there as well.

“We have received many requests to keep adult lessons going throughout the summer,” says the written report.

Fall shut-down plans for the pool are being discussed with the college.

‘A few hiccups’

The new ice system in Arena 1 at the MRC is in place. It’s called ‘REALice,’ and it was working well, Simpson said, but some trouble with the ice plant had set things back. “Working through some hiccups there,” he reported.

Upsetting vandalism

Vandalism at town parks has been up lately.
“It has been upsetting to see the graffiti and porta-potties knocked over,” says the CAO report.

Peace officer busy

The town is down to one peace officer lately, and he has been busy. Thirty-three calls in two weeks, Simpson said. These include complaints about animals and unsightly properties. Homelessness-related complaints continue as well.

Fire department too

The fire department had 42 calls for service in the month of June. Seventeen had to do with fire alarms and 10 were medical co-response calls. Otherwise: motor vehicle collisions – 6; search and rescue – 2; wildland fire – 4; structure fire – 1; hazardous materials – 1; water rescue – 1.

Creating reserve accounts

Council created some new reserve accounts and added to a few existing ones, using $2.4 million the town had in unrestricted surplus as of the end of last year.

According to the report in council’s agenda package, during budget discussions, council decided it wanted to create new reserves “to assist the town in achieving its current and future plans.”

The three new reserve accounts are the Future Expenditure Reserve, the Disaster Recovery Reserve and the Technology Infrastructure and Innovation Reserve.

The New Expenditure Reserve gets $1.405 million. It was set up to fund “unbudgeted items throughout the year.”

The Disaster Recovery Reserve got $200,000. Its purpose is to fund costs arising from disasters; accommodating evacuees is an example.

The Technology Infrastructure Reserve got $300,000 for starters. Its purpose is to fund tech upgrades – capital or operational.

Also getting a shot of new funds from unrestricted surplus were the Planning and Development Reserve ($80,000), Arena and Pool Capital Reserve ($150,000) and Fire Services Capital Reserve ($250,000).

New alert system

No sooner had council set up a reserve fund for tech and innovation, it got busy spending some of it. Council approved a $13,000 outlay for a ‘mass notification and communication tool,’ called Voyent Alert.

It was noted in the report that the town already uses various means of notifying residents about various things. But after a couple of recent presentations by Voyent Alert, councillors and town admin. seem convinced this method will work better.

CAO Jeff Simpson, in his written report for council, said Voyent Alert “can allow for accurate, up-to-date and relevant information about the issues and incidents that impact residents’ daily lives….”

Mayor Tyler Warman, commenting on the service, said “it’s very easy to use,” and “very beneficial.”

Not mentioned in the report was when the new system might be in place and ready for use.

Inter-municipal committee topics

This committee discusses matters of mutual concern between the town and M.D. of LSR. The two big agreement Fire Services (FSA) and Intermunicipal (that deals mainly with shared costs on town rec facilities) are up for renewal this year.

Warman said the town isn’t looking for substantial change to either of those; what the M.D. wants isn’t exactly clear yet, but Warman said recent talks lead him to believe the FSA should be wrapped up in September. The other one may take longer.

Another topic of discussion at the committee meetings is availability of industrial land. There’s basically none in Slave Lake, Warman said.

There is some in the Mitsue Industrial Park, but the town and M.D. are talking about the idea of some new industrial area on the southeast edge of town.

“We have demand,” Warman said.

Chamber of Commerce

The board of this organization had met earlier that day. Councillor Francesca Ward said the Riverboat Daze midway went well, and thanked town staff for helping to make it run smoothly. She called it “a huge fundraiser” for the Chamber.

Other things the Chamber is working on include Small Business Week stuff in October and the annual business excellence awards gala.

Housing

Ward reported that the waiting list for housing dropped from 47 to 41. It is expected to drop even further as 10 units are expected to be ready for occupation by the end of August. Having a new maintenance person on staff is helping, she said.

Tourism society

The All-In event at the end of August is shaping up nicely, reported councillor Hughes. She called it “a big group effort,” mentioning the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Arts Council and Stage North as partners.

Meanwhile, the tourism society is looking for people to fill board positions, and volunteers to help run events. The next meeting is in the fall.

Homeless coalition

Councillor Ferguson said the group is still looking for a location for the Mat Program overnight shelter for the upcoming winter season.

“Without a location,” he said, “it would not be a good thing.”

The board is also looking for an executive director to manage the shelter program.

Legacy centre board

Things at the Legacy Centre are going quite well, Warman reported. Bookings are up lately, exceeding what had been anticipated in the budget. There is some upstairs space for rent, he added.

“We are looking for a tenant that would like to make that beautiful centre their home.”

Other news: Stage North would like to make some changes to the lighting in the Legacy Centre’s theatre.

Mayor’s corner

Warman’s first comment in this segment was about the powerlifting provincial championships that had been held the previous weekend in Slave Lake. He said he saw many of the attendees at his restaurant they seemed “very impressed by Slave Lake and the event.” The organizers did “an excellent job,” he added.

On the topic of the Riverboat Daze carnival/fair/rides, Warman thanked drivers on Hwy. 88 for slowing down and looking out for the people streaming across the highway to the fair site. He also mentioned the RCMP’s help in ensuring safety.

As for the event itself, he said, “it creates a whole new vibe in town. Hats off to the Chamber of Commerce for another successful event.”

Apparently there were questions about fireworks, or the lack of them. At that, councillor Hughes piped up:

“There will be fireworks for the All-In event,” she said. “August 27. Sponsored by Vanderwell’s.”

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