May 9, 2023 meeting
Council received a report on applications for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) grants. Five applications had been made, of which two were considered ineligible.
Budgeted this year for such grants is $35,000. The rules are that the organizations applying must provide programs and services that “are preventative in nature and enhance the social well-being….” etc. etc.
The following applications had been made:
Lesser Slave Forest Education Society, for its summer camp for kids – $850
Slave Lake and Area Women’s Wellness Society – $5,000
Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory Society outreach program – $1,750
Stage North Association, for Riverboat Daze entertainers – $5,000
Slave Lake & District Chamber of Commerce, for a Riverboat Daze Block Party concert – $15,000
Darcy Comeau, presenting the report to council, said entertainment does not qualify under the FCSS rules, so the latter two applications were deemed ineligible.
Council accepted Comeau’s recommendation, and approved the requested amounts from the LSFES, SLAWWS and LSLBOS, for a total of $7,600.
That leaves $27,400 still to be allocated. The next round of applications for FCSS grants is in August, and will probably come to council for approval in September.
Economic Development Week held off
Council had been all set to proclaim May 8 – 12 Economic Development Week in Slave Lake. But the wildfires, the accommodation efforts for evacuees and so on, interfered with that. Accordingly, council accepted a recommendation to reschedule Ec/Dev Week to the week of June 12 – 16.
The town’s economic development officer, Jason Swanson, had a series of awareness-raising items all set to send out to the public; those will all be held back until the week in June, but he gave council a sneak preview. They cover a variety of topics, including the Rural Renewal Stream (which deals with recruiting foreign workers) and the establishment of an economic development advisory committee.
One of Swanson’s slides invites the public to “Have your say” about economic development, by way of engageslavelake.ca.
All this stuff will be blasted out via various communications platforms during Economic Development Week.
Council accepted Swanson’s report as information, but not before councillor Kim Hughes asked him to involve the Chamber of Commerce and Community Futures in the discussion, as organizations interested in economic development.
Will do, Swanson said.
Council received a report on the town’s dust-control policy and practices, from the town’s director of operations, Calvin Couturier.
Until the frost is out of the roads, the practice is to disturb the surface as little as possible, Couturier said. Once the frost is out – usually late May-early June, the program kicks into gear. About half the town’s 17 kilometres of gravel roads get a new gravel application each year. When all the roads have been “dressed up,” on goes the calcium treatment. After that, the roads will be graded through the summer every week or two.
The dust-control program costs the town about $94,000 per year.
Council accepted the report as information, asking no questions about it.
Also presented for council’s information was a report on the town’s street-sweeping program. It starts with the main roads being swept clear of accumulated sand and dirt. Once snow is off lawns, the smaller sweepers clear off the sand left on them via snow storage. Residential lawns get done first, Couturier told council; town boulevards later. Once that’s done, the streets are all swept up, and that process continues throughout the summer.
After spring sweeping is finished, crews make a point of repairing lawns damaged by winter snow-plowing.
CAO Simpson read a report on how the town is doing at implementing strategic priorities identified by council last year. Progress in each of several priority areas was assessed under the following criteria: economic health, livability, good governance, relationships and partnerships and communication.
Where do we stand overall, asked mayor Ward.
“Good progress,” said Simpson, adding that perhaps council would like to review the strategic plan in the fall.
Yes, let’s, said councillor Hughes, and made a motion to that effect.
Positions filled, positions open
If the town ever finds itself fully staffed, it’ll be a big news story, because it seems it never is. The CAO’s report for council made that plain enough. Some positions have been filled (program coordinator, public works operator, senior lifeguard, travel counsellors and Summer Splash coordinator), but others are still there for the taking. These were presented in two categories in CAO Jeff Simpson’s report.
‘In progress’ includes the following positions: communications coordinator (conducting interviews), aquatics supervisor (ditto), deputy fire chief (ditto), two RCMP detachment clerks (reference checks) and a director of corporate services (at the offer stage).
Under ‘positions posted,’ there’s an IT (information technology) manager, fire administrative program coordinator, administrative assistant to the CAO and human resources, and a junior lifeguard.
Fire department in April
Regional fire service activity was part of the CAO report, as usual. It showed 55 calls for service in April, with 36 of those divided evenly between outdoor fires, motor vehicle collisions and medical incidents.
Total calls for 2023, up to May 4, were 194.
Voyent use up
A week earlier, council had been lamenting the poor uptake on the town’s Voyent Alert system for emergency notifications. Thanks to the wildfire situation, there had been a sudden surge in sign-ups council heard – something like a 200 per cent increase in the previous few days.
Councillor Hughes said she’d been hearing from people who had signed up and were happy with how it worked.
“It put them more at ease,” she said.
Councillor Brandle reported a $36,000 budget surplus for the housing authority in 2022. The authority is approved to hang on to that money, but must dedicate it to maintenance and utilities.
The lodge has seven vacancies, Brandle said. Two have been offered to Alberta Health Services for nurses needing short-term accommodations.
“We always have some empty,” she said.
Councillor Hughes said the Slave Lake Region website has been revamped and re-launched. Maps and brochures have been printed and will be available at the Visitor Information Centre and elsewhere. Familiarization tours are scheduled for June 8. More could be done if there’s interest.
Canada Day events are being organized – a main one being a visit by an outfit called ‘Elevate Aviation.’
As for the Beach Fest in August, Hughes said organizers are looking for community groups to stage events on the beach.
Thirty-nine programs, with 1,245 participants last month, reported councillor Adams. Also of note is that “incidents” are down, following the hiring of a security guard for evenings and Saturdays.
The Mat Program overnight shelter closed at the end of April, reported councillor Ferguson. The group has been approved for funding to continue some programs through the summer. Planning will be going on for next winter’s shelter season.
The airport had a $48,000 surplus in 2022, Ferguson reported. That’ll go into a capital reserve. It might be needed to pay for shoreline stabilization – a problem that has yet to be solved.
But there’s good news on that front, Ferguson continued. A method involving “medium-sized rocks” in bags has been priced at an estimated $400,000 – a far cry from the $4 million price tag somebody had initially estimated to fix the shoreline erosion problem. More details to come.
‘A huge thank you’
Mayor Ward’s wrap-up comments had to do with the community response to the call for Slave Lake to set up as a centre for wildfire evacuees. Town staff did a great job, she said, and the help of volunteers from the community is very much appreciated.
“A huge thank-you to the community,” Ward said.