June 20, 2023 meeting
Adjusting the minutes, x 14
Council’s first job in what turned out to be quite a long meeting was to make a series of adjustments to meeting minutes from the first four months of 2023. What had happened, they were advised by admin. assistant Ashley Whitford, was that due to a switch to a new ‘platform’ for creating and publishing minutes, an error happened, with the result that the motion numbers had been incorrectly recorded, meeting after meeting.
The glitch was discovered in May, and fixed. What council had to do was make a separate motion to amend each set of minutes, starting in early January and going all the way to May 9. This they did, taking turns – 14 motions in all.
“Thank you for catching this now and not waiting until December!” said councillor Steve Adams, after the marathon motion session.
Council still hesitant on ATCO streetlight scheme
As requested, a representative from ATCO Electric was on the agenda to explain and answer questions about its proposal for its preferred arrangement for the town to pay for streetlight replacement.
The two schemes – which ATCO calls ‘invested’ and ‘non-invested’ are quite complicated, and we won’t attempt to explain them here. What it comes down to, though, is whether the town pays a bunch of money up front to switch its lights to LEDs, or deals with them as they fail. ATCO has sweetened the pot a bit with something it calls a ‘conversion multiplier,’ which it says won’t be on the table for too much longer. A sort of ‘limited time only’ situation.
Some councillors had been skeptical of this offer, but the leading skeptic, Julie Brandle, was absent. That left Steve Adams to ask the hard questions. He’s a stickler when it comes to shelling out money, especially the unbudgeted variety; he made that plain in a series of queries of ATCO rep Ashley Svecla.
The upshot of the discussion is council wants more details, including figures showing what the town has been paying on streetlight maintenance and replacement over several years. Adams, who made the motion, said he wants more information in order to tell whether staying ‘as is,’ or taking the ATCO offer as proposed is the best option. Or some alternative course.
Intersection traffic: solve one problem, create others
Council had asked for more details on a couple of problem intersections and they got it, in spades. Town project manager Kush Patel had a detailed and lengthy report for them on what the possibilities are for making 6th Ave and 7th St. SE and Main St. and 6th Ave. North friendlier and safer – especially for kids walking to and from school.
Adding turning lanes is one idea. Traffic lights in another. Yet another is turning one or both intersections into ‘roundabouts’ (to use the British term for a traffic circle).
Other suggestions: relocating a crosswalk, extending curbs, coming up with a ‘road safety plan,’ extending a school zone, installing pedestrian warning signs and putting in some kind of pedestrian signal.
Curb extensions at the four-way stop intersection on Main St. got some love from councillors, but the conversation quickly moved on to the other traffic problems it likely would cause. Extending the curbs would make it safer for kids crossing on their way to and from Schurter School, but it would effectively eliminate a right-turn lane for traffic. Mayor Frankie Ward, who lives in the area, said it’s already difficult to turn right onto 6th Ave. in busy times. Removing that right-turn lane, she predicted, would cause the traffic to back up all the way to the school, which is already congested and dangerous, with kids being dropped off and picked up.
Council accepted the report as information.
Tying it all together
The town has evidently been having a hard time due to something called “multiple independent applications” and “isolated silos.” The solution, proposed by administration and accepted by council, is to spend $800,000 on a new type of ‘cloud-based’ software, from a company called Townsuite Municipal Software.
This sort of thing goes under the title of ‘enterprise resource planning’ system, or ERP.
Asked to explain that in layman’s terms, CAO Jeff Simpson said: “It’s modernizing our administrative operations and tying all of our departments and programs together. It allows for better use of public resources, coordination, and reduces repetitive processes. It also allows us to expand on the services we can offer our residents remotely and online.”
The Townsuite bid on the job was by far the highest of the two the town received (by about $700,000!). But, as councillor Ali Mouallem put it, it was not an “apples to apples” comparison, and Townsuite scored better in the town’s rating system, despite the cost factor.
With council recently approving a change that will allow residents to pay town bills by credit card, the town needed to establish a processing fee. This required a change to the Administrative Rates Bylaw, which can only happen via a council resolution.
Proposed (and accepted by council) was a fee of 1.4 per cent. There is a cap of $1,500 per transaction.
Councillor Steve Adams asked if the 1.4 per cent was aimed at cost-recovery, or included some profit. Cost-recovery was the answer; the town isn’t allowed to make a profit on it.
Zoning change, phase I
A beauty salon wishes to add something it calls ‘personal services’ to its offerings. As this is not a permitted use in the C2 – Secondary Commercial District – the owner has applied to have it added.
Council gave first reading to the bylaw change and set the required public hearing for July 11, 2023. This will give the neighbours a chance to express their views on the new use. Or anyone else, for that matter.
The personal services the salon wishes to add include tattooing.
Question period: where’s the Pride flag?
Councillor Adams asked administration why the town isn’t flying the Pride flag during Pride Month, which it has done in previous years. The answer: the town’s policy requires organizations to request such privileges and none has for 2023.
Adams wasn’t the only councillor who thought such things happened automatically, each year, once they had been approved. But not so.
“What do you do in case of conflict?” asked CAO Jeff Simpson.
Councillor Shawn Gramlich had done some research. There are so many special ‘days’ and ‘weeks’ and ‘months’ recognizing or commemorating something, that the flagpoles, or the town’s new coloured lights, could easily become over-subscribed, he pointed out. And town staff shouldn’t be the ones having to decide who gets preference.
“It could get very complicated,” councillor Ali Mouallem agreed.
No changes to the policy were proposed, but council did vote in favour of an Adams motion to raise the Pride flag at the town office for the rest of June.
The town posted its flag and commemorative lighting policy on its Facebook page on June 20.
State of the Lake
Councillor Shawn Gramlich led off the final remarks by congratulating the winners and organizers of the 2023 Canadian Tire Anglers Cup. Then he moved on to mentioning the swearing-in of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair, which he had attended earlier that day in Edmonton.
Gramlich said from talking to government people, he has gotten the impression “all agree Slave Lake hasn’t gotten a fair shake,” and that, “we might see some results.”
Mayor Ward acknowledged the participants in the Lemonade Day program, which happened on June 17.
Ward also put in a plug for National Indigenous Peoples Day, on June 21, encouraging people to attend the various events.
Lastly, Mouallem encouraged Chamber of Commerce members to attend the Wednesday evening (June 21) meeting at Wonderland in Slave Lake.