June 13, 2023 meeting
Service levels for playgrounds and parks
Council got a review of the town’s service levels for the various green spaces it looks after. It largely has to do with how often grass is mowed. For this, there are four different service levels.
Getting top priority are sports fields, which are supposed to get mowed weekly. Next are ‘high priority’ areas, which include the grass along Main St. and the quadrant parks. They’re supposed to be mowed every seven to 10 days.
Medium priority areas get cut every 10 – 20 days. These include the smaller parks, areas along trails and so on.
Low priority areas get cut once per month. These are industrial area ditches, berms and empty lots.
Council heard that the town has been getting lots of complaints about grass length and such. Dandelions seem to be part of the problem. Spraying is an option. It costs about $1,600 per application on one baseball field complex, although cost is only one consideration.
Council also got a list of capital improvements to parks on the books for this year. They include the new spray park completion, upgrades to the Hilda Eben Park basketball court and tennis courts, a new half-court for Poplar Grove Park, a gazebo at Schurter Park and a pump track at Barton Park.
Councillor Ali Mouallem said that with the big quadrant parks being improved, use of the smaller ‘pocket parks’ would likely be declining. Should the town considering closing some of them?
The last time we tried that there was a lot of backlash, said councillor Kim Hughes.
“I would prefer to leave that alone.”
Council accepted the report for information. A second motion was to have a report for the next budget on the implications of weed spraying. This was carried as well.
Presenting his review of this program, CAO Jeff Simpson told council there is some unfairness in its current structure. His proposal was to make some adjustments, which he predicted would cost the town about $7,000 more per year.
The town compensates employees (and volunteers, in the case of firefighters) for being on call. In the case of utilities department operators, the rate of compensation doesn’t reflect their additional on-call responsibilities, compared to employees of other departments.
The other thing Simpson proposed changing had to do with firefighters who take department vehicles home when they are on call. They end up having to declare it as a taxable benefit. In his report, Simpson said “the premise of taxing our volunteers….hinders our progress.”
Councillors were generally in favour of the proposal, but Steve Adams had some issues.
“I’m tired of seeing things come in the middle of the budget year,” he said, adding he’d prefer to see the matter come up at the end of the year, in budget discussions.
However, it turned out the adjustment can be handled within this year’s budget without any additional allocation.
Council approved the change as proposed with Adams opposed.
Always prominent in the CAO’s report to council is the piece on positions open, in progress or recently filled. This time the positions just filled, or almost filled well outnumbered the ones still vacant – which seems to be good news.
Councillor Mouallem asked what the barriers to recruitment seem to be, generally.
Two things, said Simpson: remoteness of the community and compensation rates not being competitive.
Nothing lesser about it
Also in Simpson’s report was the latest on a tourism marketing campaign the town is launching. It’ll concentrate on the Edmonton market, council heard. Two separate ad campaigns will run simultaneously, to compare their performance. One is dubbed ‘Heck Ya’ and the other ‘Nothing Lesser About It.’ The better-performing of the two will run again in July and August.
Voyent Alert, etc.
Among other things, the wildfire outbreak in the region resulted in a big increase in residents signing up for the town’s new emergency alert program. It’s called Voyent Alert, and subscribers were up to 2,345, council heard, which was 1,818 more than the previous month.
Uptake on the engageslavelake.ca app, on the other hand, was still moving like molasses in January. This is the online device for providing feedback to the town on issues and projects and so on. Eight people signed up in May, bringing the total to 265.
The town issued licenses to eight new businesses. These are a residential builder, a cleaning service, a ‘lift solutions’ company, a reiki practice, ‘nails and spa,’ pressure washing, mobile cabin rentals and a general contractor.
The concrete pad for the electric vehicle charger was poured on June 6. The charger hardware was expected to be installed this week.
Rain has slowed the 3rd St. NW road rehab project. This in turn has caused the downtown revitalization concrete work to be pushed back by a week (this report was before the heavy rain on June 14, which probably slowed things even further).
Asphalt patching was due to start in the week of June 12.
‘Don’t pave it and ignore us for 20 years’
The Inter-Municipal Committee had met the previous week, reported mayor Ward. Memoranda of understanding on the operation of the Visitor Information Centre and town and M.D. peace officers assisting each other were clarified.
Advocacy on Hwy. 88 was another topic discussed at the meeting. Specifically, the idea is that a mere resurfacing of the highway would not be good enough, according to councillor Gramlich.
“It needs more than pavement,” he said. “Shoulders, passing lanes and widening – do it properly. Don’t pave and then ignore us for the next 20 years.”
Chamber of Commerce
Councillor Mouallem said the board has two new members, “young, dynamic individuals.”
The executive director is going on maternity leave, but still expects to do some work from home.
The next membership meeting is June 21.
Coming right up in early July, Mouallem reminded his colleagues. It starts with the free Gord Bamford concert on Wednesday, July 5, and rolls right through the rest of the week, with various activities. These include a beer garden, pancake breakfast, a Friday parade and a downtown market on Saturday. Plus fireworks! And more, probably. (The Leader will do a proper Riverboat Daze preview in the June 28 edition.)
Visitor info guides are out and distributed, reported councillor Hughes. Likewise a ‘Top 10 Things To Do’ brochure.
One thing that isn’t happening is the visit of 40 airplanes to the Slave Lake Airport on Canada Day. This was scheduled, but due to the airport being so busy with wildfire suppression efforts, it had to be canceled.
Also canceled were the familiarization tours. These are for employees of local businesses who encounter travelers and are often asked questions about the area. They have worked well before, Hughes said, but the timing didn’t seem to be right this time around.
Beach Fest, Aug. 12 and 13 is shaping up, Hughes said. It will feature sandcastles, beach volleyball, fireworks and more.
Municipal Planning Commission
At the last meeting the MPC approved one home-based jewellery business, reported councillor Gramlich. Also approved were a dozen new cabins at Big Fish Bay Resort.
Councillor Mouallem asked if the town should be gathering professional-quality photos and videos for marketing purposes.
Hughes said the tourism society is doing some of that for its own promotional purposes.
Jason Swanson, the town’s economic development manager, said he’s doing it too, although only still photos at this point. There’s no budget for videos, he said.