Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

March 21, 2023 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Council went ahead with a skeleton crew – only making quorum because interim mayor Shawn Gramlich was able to attend remotely. Councillor Steve Adams filled in as chair of the meeting, which began with a public hearing on a re-zoning application for 401 3rd Ave. NE

Re-zoning for business expansion

The property in question is the old RCMP detachment building on 3rd Ave. NE. For the past few decades it has housed Philip Lokken’s law office and Lakeview Optometry. Lokken is the owner of the building; he is retiring and Lakeview Optometry owner Dr. Eve Niedergesaess wants to purchase it and expand her business. In the process, it was discovered the zoning is residential and the current use does not conform. Hence the application to change the zoning to C1 Commercial.

“We are in desperate need of more space,” Dr. Niedergesaess told council in the public hearing.

Also speaking up in favour of the zoning change was Lokken, who suggested one of the councillors was in a conflict of interest, since a building he owns houses another optometry clinic. Responding, councillor Adams said after studying the relevant provisions in the Municipal Government Act, he thinks he isn’t. His colleague councillor Julie Brandle also pointed out that if Adams were to withdraw, council would no longer have quorum, and it would delay the process by another month.

As it turned out, council voted unanimously in favour of second and third readings of the bylaw change.

Tax penalty waiver plea

A resident appeared as a delegation and asked council to waive the penalty for late payment of property taxes. She said the failure to pay on time had something to do with an accounting glitch that happened due to changing banks. The taxes had since been paid in full, she said, minus the penalty, which amounts to a hefty $2,720.77.

“We had no idea the bank wasn’t including it (with the mortgage payments),” she said.

Council discussed the matter in closed session, then asked for a report on it to be brought to a later meeting.

Library requests funding for security guards

Regional library manager Kendra McRee presented a request for a funding boost of just under $21,000 to council. This is the town’s portion of the cost of hiring a security guard to be on site evenings and weekends.

The idea of having a security person at the library actually came up a month or two ago, after a spate of incidents prompted the board to take action. McRee told council the library had a security guard on site prior to Feb. 17 on a trial basis, and incidents “decreased drastically.” Starting on Feb. 18, the unpleasant encounters shot up, some of it involving verbal abuse and threats.

Staff working evenings and weekends, McRee continued, “are often young and ill-equipped to deal with many of the situations that are occurring.”

Council voted in favour of a Brandle motion to grant the request.

How’s the drainage situation?

Councillor Kimberly Hughes asked the CAO how the town’s efforts on drainage control were going, given the recent melting. She said on a drive through the industrial area she’d come across a road that “looks like it’s about to go under, there is so much water out there.”

Crews have been out steaming all day, said CAO Jeff Simpson. With the recent weather, what’s thawed out one day will likely be frozen again the next. If you have any concerns, or something to report, call the main town office number, he said.

Mill rate bylaw passes

Council gave all three readings to the mill rate bylaw, clearing the way for property tax notices to be sent out. This is the next step after approval of the operating and capital budgets.

In the report, council learned that growth in 2022 was pretty much nil. Only one taxable property was added to the tax roll. Rising property values, on the other hand, pushed the total value of taxable properties in the town up by $28.5 million. Of that, $19 million is on the residential side, with $8.3 million being commercial and industrial.

The mill rates are set every year so as to collect the amount of money council has decided is needed to run the town for the year, plus requisitions for schools and seniors housing.

As reported earlier, the town’s operating budget for 2023 is $416,000 higher than the 2022 version, which translates to a 4.5 per cent tax increase. That’s on average; how much each property’s tax goes up depends on whether its assessed value went up, went down or stayed the same, compared to the previous year.

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