Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Aug. 9, 2022

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Jobs, jobs, jobs (the continuing saga)

In CAO Jeff Simpson’s report for council was an update on the town’s recruitment needs and efforts. A few positions have been filled since the last report, but even more are still vacant. As follows:

Two admin. assistants, a director of community services, an economic development officer, a manager for facilities and parks, a supervisor for the Multi Rec Centre, a peace officer and an equipment operator for the public works department.

People hired recently include a couple of recreation assistants, a parks department operator, a firefighter and (starting in September) a senior firefighter.

Recent resignations include a public works operator, two rec assistants and a senior lifeguard.

Projects

The contractor for Lift Station C force main (sewer line) project that has underground work happening along of 6th Ave. NW has completed a temporary bypass connection and installed three lengths of pipe, council heard. The plan is to complete the tie-in to the manhole at Main St. “before the re-opening of schools,” says the CAO’s written report.

Tennis court resurfacing is expected to take place in September.

Equipment for the town’s electrical vehicle recharging station has arrived. Discussions with ATCO Electric are happening on connection issues.

Downtown project ripping along

The forecast for the ‘revitalization’ of Rennie Hall Plaza is pretty rosy, in spite of the general impression it is proceeding at a snail’s pace. Simpson said the concrete work in the ‘north plaza’ was expected to be completed by Tuesday of this week (Aug. 16). The south plaza is expected to be completed by Aug. 21.

“Trees and shrubbery for landscaping are ordered and expected to be installed before the All-In event,” the report concludes.

Viewpoint courtesy of Father Ephrem of St. Peter Celestin Church

Sewers, stop work order and row houses

The report from the town’s planning and development department had quite a variety of items. The town is working with two businesses on proposals for something called ‘low-pressure sanitary sewer.’ Reports on both will be coming to council.

The town issued a ‘stop-work’ order to an unnamed business on an industrial property, for reasons not specified.

“Will conduct follow-up inspection this week to ascertain if the stop order has been complied with,” says the written report.

Lastly, the town is “working with a developer on the approval of two row house developments.”

Busy month for fire dept.

The LSRFS had 40 calls for service in the month of July. This included nine alarms, nine medical co-responses, eight motor vehicle collisions, a couple of search and rescue incidents, seven wildland fires, two structure fires, one hazardous goods call, one water rescue and one high angle rescue. Total calls for 2022 (as of Aug. 8) were 290.

Town to write off $115,000 Sawridge debt

Council accepted a recommendation to write off a receivable amount that has been owing since back in the 1990s sometime. It was a property owner’s share of the cost of extending 6th Ave. SW to accommodate a residential development (West Side Village) on the north side of the street. The plan at the time, council heard, was to charge the cost of building the road to the property owners on both sides. The north side developer paid its half, but Sawridge Development Ltd. proposed a deferral of its portion until it developed its property on the south.

Development did happened, but no access was ever taken off 6th Ave. and the company apparently decided that because the street did not benefit its development, it shouldn’t have to pay.

Fast forward 25 years or so, and the bill still hasn’t been paid. The town thinks it’s unlikely it ever will; hence the recommendation to write it off.

Mayor Tyler Warman spoke up in favour of the write-off. We can keep kicking the can down the road, he said, but it’s probably not a good idea.

“I don’t even think we have a leg to stand on,” he said.

Committees

Chamber of Commerce – Councillor Francesca Ward said this group was working hard, in collaboration with other groups, to deliver Slave Lake’s All-In weekend festival later this month.

The parade had 23 entries and counting, she said, and was still welcoming more. The same goes for people wanting booths at the Block Party. She encouraged people to apply “sooner rather than later!”

Nominations for this year’s annual business awards will open in the middle of September, Ward added.

Community Futures – Councillor Steve Adams said inquiries about loans have been up the past month. There’s a special type of loan aimed at women wanting to start businesses, he said.

A program called Head Start in Business is coming back. This has CF people doing presentations in local schools about entrepreneurship. CF is encouraging teachers to get in touch to find out more.

Homeless Coalition – Councillor Brice Ferguson said the group is still without a location for the Mat Program overnight shelter for the upcoming winter. It is also still on the hunt for an executive director.

Waste Management Commission – Ferguson said the landfill ended up with a $300,000 surplus last year, and the commission will be “tucking it away” to pay for the cost of a new cell.

Volume this year is slightly down, he said. Volume of material that the landfill can’t handle, on the other hand, is higher than they would like it to be. Oilfield waste, for example, “needs to be diverted to other facilities,” he said.

Incidents at the airport

Councillor Ferguson reported on two “quite serious” incidents at the airport. In one case, a medevac plane taking off went through a flock of gulls, hitting a number of them. The pilot aborted the flight and nobody – apart from the birds – was hurt.

The other incident involved a possibly intoxicated driver crashing into the airport gate, causing several thousand dollars’ worth of damage.

Other news from the airport is that no affordable method of preventing further erosion of the shoreline has been found. The commission has had more than one engineer look at it. The first suggestion was far too expensive. The second was much cheaper and probably wouldn’t work. The matter is still being looked at.

The reason it’s an issue is because a storm during a high-water period caused the loss of 30 – 40 feet of the lakeshore at the west end of the airport property in 2020.

Responses on Hwy. 88, labour challenges, homelessness

Council had been pestering various ministers in the provincial government for action on items of concern – highways, for example. In council’s agenda package were three responses – one on plans (or the lack of them) for Hwy. 88 improvements, one on labour force challenges and one on homelessness.

The one from Prasad Panda, Minister of Transportation, was the second response from the ministry. The first one, back in June, “was a lot less cordial,” said Warman. “This one offers a sliver of hope.”

Panda’s letter says “larger paving patches” are scheduled for this construction season. Also, an engineer will be assigned in the next few months “to carry out design activities.”

The letter on labour force challenges is from an associate minister, Muhammad Yaseen, of Immigration and Multiculturalism. In it, Yaseen explains the “rural streams under the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program.” It’s a program apparently intended to help rural communities recruit workers. Not individual businesses, but communities. Yaseen suggests that if the capacity doesn’t exist within a small community to do the work, partnerships with other small communities could be the answer.

“Definitely nothing earth-shattering there,” was Warman’s remark.

Minister of Community and Social Services Jason Luan had responded to a letter (to the Premier) from the town seeking guidance on the homelessness issue. In it, Yuan speaks of a task force looking into the issue, a new 10-year strategy to expand affordable housing, and the $140 million the government has committed to address addictions. He also wrote about the government’s efforts to improve public safety.

Warman described it as “a hang in there kind of letter,” adding, “that’s all we’re doing. That’s all we can do.”

Minister of Transportation Prasad Panda

Grande Prairie agitating for better rail service

Another letter in council’s agenda was from the mayor of the City of Grande Prairie. It outlines the city’s efforts to advocate for “improving national rail capacity.” The goal of mayor Jackie Clayton and her council is to get the matter accepted as a resolution by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Clayton invited Slave Lake mayor and council to participate in a discussion of the issue with Alberta Forest Products Association President Jason Krips.

Also included was a 43-page report from CN Rail on its ‘grain plan’ for this year and next.

Mayor’s corner

Warman said he’s been hearing quite a bit from citizens who are unhappy about unsightly properties around town – both the condition of weedy lots and of buildings. From what he said it sounds as if he’s also been hearing plenty of questions and opinions about the pace of progress on the Rennie Hall Plaza project.

“Admin. knows very well it’s top of mind,” he said.

Otherwise, “lots happening” over at Big Fish Bay, Warman said, without offering much in the way of detail. The relationship between the town and the expanding campground/RV park is certainly one of the items under discussion. At a council meeting back in June, Big Fish Bay had requested a meeting to discuss the terms of the lease, and said they would be proposing changes. That was the meeting where they talked about erecting a building to house a ‘trampoline park,’ and asked for a break on property taxes.

The challenge, said Warman, is how to help Big Fish Bay and also be responsible “to the town and the taxpayers.”

Rail Safety Week

Council’s final item before going in camera was to proclaim Sept. 19 – 25 Rail Safety Week in Slave Lake.

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