Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

June 6, 2023 meeting

Joe McWilliams

Lakeside Leader

Adding industrial laundry

A company already running an ‘industrial laundry’ operation in an industrial zone can now do so legally, after council approved a change to the land-use bylaw. However, council balked at adding the new use to several other industrial zones.

The company is Spring Fresh, which has a place on Caribou Trail. Such a use was not listed as permitted in the M1 zone, hence the application for a change.

At the public hearing that preceded second and third readings, nobody spoke up either for or against the bylaw change.

Zoning for a four-plex

Council gave first reading to a land-use bylaw change that would facilitate the construction of a four-plex on a lot on 5 St. NE. The applicant is Métis Urban Housing.

Council heard that the property owner had initially had the land rezoned to allow for a semi-detached dwelling on the site. That was back in January, but since then, the idea of making it a four-unit development came up.

The planning department was recommending council give first reading and set a date for a public hearing. This is scheduled for July 4 of this year.

Time extension on environmental reserve

Efforts are underway to create an environmental reserve along the lakeshore by the Big Fish Bay Resort. The town has learned from the surveyor working on the project that it’s taking more time than anticipated. The sticking point seems to be getting a definition of what exactly is the lakeshore.

Council heard such difficulties are not uncommon, and an extension to Dec. 31 of this year was recommended.

Councillor Steve Adams asked if the delay would affect any other development projects in the vicinity. No was the answer.

Council granted the extension.

Street lights: to invest in new ones or not

ATCO wants to change out all the remaining sodium street lights in Slave Lake to LEDs. Not only that, it is recommending Slave Lake catch up with most other municipalities and adopt what ATCO calls the ‘invested rate.’

Under the current system, the town pays less, but is responsible for installation and replacement of 677 of its 818 lights. Under the ‘invested’ system, the town still has to pay for installation, but ATCO assumes full replacement cost. ATCO looks after maintenance in both scenarios.

The net difference, council heard, would be about $160,000 annually added to town costs.

ATCO’s recommendation is to move to the ‘invested’ system. It estimates 32 per cent of the town’s lights are in need of replacing shortly, at a cost of $1.5 million.

If the town accepts the ATCO recommendation, ATCO hands over $683,000 in investment funding, which could go into a reserve fund.

Similar proposals to past councils have been rejected. Some councillors greeted this latest proposal with familiar skepticism.

“Are we really spending a lot more money to maintain them (the older lights)?,” said councillor Julie Brandle. “I’m not really in favour.”

ATCO’s saying they’re not in good condition, said the director of finance.

“I almost feel it’s them offloading onto the municipality,” Brandle said.

“I believe this is the last year for this proposal,” said the director.

“We’ve heard that before,” said councillor Shawn Gramlich.

Council settled the matter, temporarily, by voting in favour of a Brice Ferguson motion to table it until budget deliberations and to have somebody from ATCO attend a council meeting prior to that.

Tax cancellation

In spite of worries about setting a bad precedent, council approved the cancellation of property taxes on a derelict trailer in a west side trailer park. They did it at the request of the property owner, which says it wants to make the space suitable for somebody else who does pay his/her rent and property taxes.
The property was abandoned in 2022 and left “in an undesirable state,” as it was put in the written report for council.

Why wouldn’t we just sell it, if it’s sellable, was councillor Gramlich’s question.

Answer: last time the town did that in a similar situation, it ended up with just $1,500. The trailer park owner is ready to move on it, and it would be brought back fairly quickly to taxable status.

Council accepted the recommendation, which was to cancel $13,711 in taxes, on the condition the property owner move or sell the trailer within four months and that any surplus from a sale be paid to the town to cover outstanding taxes.

Lifeguards to get a raise

Council heard a scenario in which raising the pay of lifeguards at the pool would result in a net financial gain for the town. It goes something like this:

By upping the wages, the chances of recruiting and maintaining a full complement of lifeguards would improve. Fully staffed, the pool could operate at full capacity, thus earning more revenue than it has been with the patchy coverage of recent years.

To accomplish this, council heard from the director of community services Tasha Albert, the pool has created a new ‘assistant’ lifeguard position. People in this role can be a year younger than other guards (15, vs a minimum age of 16). But it would mean the other, higher-ranked lifeguards would need a wage bump. They are underpaid as it is, council heard, and retention has been a big problem.

Albert’s estimate was a $22,301 annual increase in salaries. More than offsetting this would be an increase (potential) in revenue of $87,000.

Some councillors expressed enthusiastic approval. Steve Adams wasn’t one of them.

“How often are we at capacity at the pool?” he asked.

Often, said Albert.

Adams then asked for a report on pool-use numbers, within a few months.

Council voted in favour of a Kimberly Hughes motion to grant the wage grid increase. Also passed was an Adams motion calling for a report on the pool-use numbers.

Off-site levies

Administration sought and received council authorization to negotiate a payment plan on off-site levies owed by a west-side industrial property owner.

Council heard that after having a request for a waiver of the $285,000 he owes the town turned town by council, the owner had paid $165,363 on June 2. He also provided 12 post-dated cheques making up the remaining $120,000.

What was needed was permission to enter a formal agreement on the payment plan. Council voted in favour, with Shawn Gramlich opposed.

Parking problems: resident suggests parking on one side only

Council discussed a letter from a resident on the subject of parking on residential streets in town. The 10th St. SE resident said she had seen problems caused by “double parking” on some streets, “causing obstruction and inconvenience….”

This can have a negative impact on emergency vehicle access, the writer said. Not only that, safety in general is affected, due to “making it difficult for drivers and pedestrians to see each other.”

A solution, the letter-writer continued, would be to restrict parking to only one side of some streets. This would “enhance road safety, improve traffic flow and foster a more vibrant and accessible town….”

It’s a nice idea, said councillor Steve Adams, but he didn’t see how council could even consider eliminating “half the parking in Slave Lake. I don’t get it.”

I’d rather see rules against parking trailers and such on the street, said councillor Ali Mouallem.

We already have those rules, pointed out CAO Jeff Simpson.

“Are they enforced?” asked mayor Frankie Ward.

“If we had an extra peace officer, we’d get ‘er done!” said councillor Shawn Gramlich.

Adams observed that having streets narrowed due to parked cars on both sides might actually help reduce speeds, which would be a good thing.

Ward suggested that the matter should be included in the larger discussion about speed limits, which council plans to dig into. She made a motion to that effect, which was carried.

Questions, questions

In question period, councillor Hughes asked about the town’s involvement in hosting wildfire evacuees. What worked, what didn’t – that sort of thing. Is there going to be a review?

Coming up, said the CAO.

How about those town trees at 7th St. and 6th Ave. SE, said councillor Brandle. You can’t see left down 6th due to the trees, meaning you have to creep right out into the street to see if it’s safe to make a left turn.

Can we attend to the trees? she asked.

The same thing happened with some of the bigger election signs, said Mouallem. Are there restrictions on that sort of thing?

Typically yes, said Simpson.

State of the lake

This is the part of the council meeting where councillors get to plug whatever they like. Mouallem led off by congratulating Northern Lakes College and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy for their graduation ceremonies held the previous week.

Mayor Ward expressed congratulations to newly-elected MLA Scott Sinclair, and said she’s looking forward to council working closely with him.

She also thanked the Kinettes for their work in getting Slave Lake’s flower baskets up once again.

Lastly, Ward mentioned the successful launch of the Tamarack Valley Splash Zone in Hilda Eben Park.

The last word went to councillor Gramlich, who put in a word for the Slave Lake Volleyball Club, which had a successful first year and competed at a national tournament.

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