May 2, 2023 meeting
Adding industrial laundry
Council gave first reading to set of Land-Use Bylaw (LUB) changes and set a public hearing date for June 6, 2023.
The proposed changes to the LUB have to do with an application by the owner of an industrial cleaning business, that is operating on Caribou Trail, NW. It turns out such a use is not listed as permitted in the M1 – Light Industrial District – hence the need to amend the bylaw.
The recommendation for council is a new definition for industrial laundry be added to several industrial districts in the LUB.
In the course of research, a type of business called ‘industrial support’ was identified and a further recommendation is that it be added to the bylaw.
As it was first reading, council did not discuss or debate the proposed bylaw changes.
No tax penalty forgiveness
Council voted against waiving a penalty for late payment of property taxes.
The person requesting the waiver had spoken to council at the March 21 meeting. She said there was a misunderstanding over a period of a couple of years that resulted in the taxes not getting paid. They since have been paid, but not the penalty, which amounts to $2,720.77.
Council heard that during those two years when the taxes weren’t paid, the town sent eight or nine letters to the owner, reminding them of their tax obligations.
Councillors were split on the issue. Three were in favour of at least partial forgiveness. Others were leery of setting a precedent. One of those was Steve Adams.
“It’s every taxpayer’s responsibility to pay taxes when they are due,” he said. “It’s not a surprise. I don’t think we can waive this. We have policies and procedures in place for a reason.”
“I’m leaning toward partial forgiveness,” said Kim Hughes. “Sometimes things just happen.”
“I strongly disagree with waiving any of these fees,” said councillor Julie Brandle.
The vote ended 4 – 3 in favour of an Adams motion to “receive the report as information and not proceed with any adjustment to any outstanding penalties.”
Downtown revitalization – Year 3
Per a 2022 council decision, the downtown area will get further upgrade work this year. The plan is to match the design of Rennie Hall Plaza on the west side of downtown, on the sidewalk running from 3rd Ave. up to 4th Ave. NE.
The work will create some inconvenience for businesses along that block and their customers. Council asked lots of questions about how that might be mitigated. Also about the possibility of the work interfering with the Riverboat Daze Block Party.
Also queried was the recommendation to engage a contractor from out of town, vs. a local one. Last year’s was local, council heard, and there were quite a few delays; in any case the subcontractor that actually did the work was from out of town, with a small crew and “high variability in work schedule.” Administration seems confident that Duro Contracting will produce better results.
There were also questions about whether the new sidewalk work would be going right up to the walls of the buildings. To the property line, council was advised. In at least some cases, that leaves a bit of distance. They heard that was also the case on the other side of Main St. last year. Servus Credit Union was approached and chipped in to get the new surface extended all the way. That could be part of the picture in this case as well, said CAO Jeff Simpson.
Council voted in favour of administration’s recommendation, which was to award the contract to Duro Contracting.
The results were in from an online survey on new ‘Welcome to Slave Lake’ signs. The town had asked residents to choose a favourite from among four designs. One hundred fifty-four responses were received, via the town’s new ‘Engagement HQ’ app, council heard. Forty-two per cent of respondents preferred option #4.
Reactions from councillors were mixed. Julie Brandle was impressed by the number of responses, saying it’s “more than we’ve received in a long time.”
Shawn Gramlich, on the other hand, said he didn’t like the idea of council making a decision based on what 154 people think.
We’re not, said Adams. It’s just one more piece of data. He made the motion to go with design #4, and it was passed.
The new welcome signs are part of the town’s ‘rebranding’ project, started last year. The new logo is also part of it.
The signs are a pricy item – estimated at $110,000.
Administration was asked how things are going with Engagement HQ, the town’s online consultation platform. Up to 240 users now, they were told. That’s not as many as the town is hoping for, but it’s actually a big jump from not very long ago.
Jason Swanson, the town’s communications and economic development manager, said the sign design survey (see Page 20) resulted in the number of subscribers going from 100 to 240 in short order.
“Download it if you’re not already on it,” said councillor Julie Brandle.
Letter on ambulance response times
In council’s agenda was a letter from Minister of Health Jason Copping, in response to a letter from council on ambulance response times. Copping talks about reducing response times as being a priority in the government’s Health Care Action Plan. Those times have improved, he said, and provided some statistics from the period from November 2022 through January of this year.
Councillor Adams asked there was any way to get numbers more specific to our area.
“We can write a letter, I guess, and ask the question,” said CAO Simpson.
It was also suggested the question could be asked of the EMS rep at the next Tri-Council Health Advisory Committee meeting.
Industrial area maintenance
In question period, councillor Hughes brought up the topic of maintenance levels in Slave Lake’s industrial areas. She’s been getting some questions about it, she said, and asked administration for some details so she could be better-equipped to answer questions from members of the public. She made a motion to that effect, which was passed.
Councillor Brandle asked about work done last year by a consultant on identifying service gaps that might be filled by recruiting new businesses into the community. What happened to that information, was her question.
The so-called ‘gap analysis’ had in fact been done by the firm Insight; a list was generated as a result, but no follow-up was done. Brandle made a motion to have an update for council on the topic.
“Part of our strategic plan was to recruit new businesses and retain the ones we have,” she said.
The motion passed.
Rural Renewal Stream (finding workers)
Rural Renewal Stream is the name given to a program whereby the municipality and prospective employers work together to find foreign workers. The town has taken on the job of setting up an online ‘portal,’ where people looking for work can connect with people looking to hire. It recently received provincial approval and has been launched, council heard.
How’s it going? asked councillor Brice Ferguson.
Nine businesses have applied to participate so far, Swanson said, and seven have been approved.
“Job postings went live today,” he said.
Swanson reminded council that the town is simply the facilitator; any contact or arrangements between employers and job-seekers must be handled by those parties.
Voyent Alert is the name of the emergency notification service the town uses. It has been promoting it for quite some time now, but participation by residents seems to have plateaued.
Asked about how it’s going, Swanson said it’s “pretty stagnant right now.”
Both councillor Steve Adams and mayor Francesca Ward praised the app, which notifies users about such things as street closures, on up to wildfire evacuations and such.
“It’s a most useful tool to have,” said Ward.
What’s up with this, asked councillor Adams, or words to that effect. He noted that the freshly-painted lines on Slave Lake streets don’t seem to last one season. Lines in Edmonton, with more traffic, seem to last longer.
CAO Simpson said the public works manager would be the one to answer that question, but he did note that the product Slave Lake uses is within “industry specs.”
There could be a number of factors, Simpson said, adding, “Every municipality would like to find that magic pill.”
Adams: I’d just like to see the lines last the season.