Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Feb. 13, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Appointments

Council’s first item of business was to approve the renewal of the Capital Region Assessment Services Commission. The commission hears appeals on property assessments, on behalf of the town, which otherwise would have a hard time maintaining its own review board. Slave Lake has used the services of the CRASC since 2018.

Council heard that in the past three years, six matters were sent to the board. However, all were withdrawn before the board had to conduct a review.

High Prairie signs on

CAO Jeff Simpson reported to council that the Town of High Prairie is signing on to Slave Lake’s Rural Renewal Stream program. This is the program where the town serves as an approved (by the provincial government) point of connection between employers seeking foreign workers and foreign workers seeking employment.

The program takes a fair amount of administration time, and with companies outside of Slave Lake wanting to take advantage of it, council decided to charge a $10,000 fee to neighbouring municipalities who want to join up, so as to cover those costs. High Prairie evidently thinks it’s worth it; the M.D. of Lesser Slave River doesn’t.

Recruitment

Simpson’s report, as usual, included details about positions filled and ones the town is still trying to fill. In the former category, an MRC operator and a facility operator position have recently been filled. An RCMP clerk is still needed.

The town is also ‘screening’ for the Director of Community Services position, meaning Tasha Albert has resigned or is resigning.

The town will be set up at a job fair at Northern Lakes College, coming up on Feb. 22, Simpson said.

Homeless shelter

In its first three months of operation this winter, the town-operated homeless shelter has been going well, Simpson said. One notable statistic is zero on-site overdoses in that period, which he said surprised the provincial government.

So far, 88 individuals have registered with the shelter; that’s up from 73 as of December. Thirty-three are female and 55 male. The shelter is averaging 14 clients daily.

In January, the shelter served 475 breakfasts, 430 lunches and 492 suppers. These numbers were substantially higher from December’s.

The shelter, which as of this winter is now funded completely by the provincial government, is operating 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Fire department

As of Feb. 8, the fire department had responded to 68 calls, Simpson reported. Four of them were to structure fires, and a dozen to vehicle collisions.

Management task list

This item on the agenda usually passes without much comment. It’s a list of all the jobs council has asked administration to perform, and often runs to many dozens of items. This time it looked different enough to elicit a remark from councillor Shawn Gramlich, who called it, “surprisingly small.”

It suggests, Gramlich continued, “we’re actually removing items off the list and not just kicking them down the road.”

Regional Housing Authority

The waiting list for social housing units is up from 51 to 55, said Mayor Frankie Ward in the first of the committee reports. Several of these have been out of commission due to needed repairs. When they come back into service it should reduce that waiting list.

In other news, Ward said the board looked at future demand for housing seniors at a strategic planning session and learned some interesting numbers. Demand for ‘lodge-style’ accommodations is expected to go up a lot.

At the moment there are 40 of these at the Vanderwell Heritage Place complex. In five years, Ward said, 60 will be needed. In 20 years, 200.

Health advisory

Councillor Ali Mouallem said two international nurses arrived last month. One is looking for a home.

Slave Lake now has nine practicing physicians and three nurse practitioners. A 10th doctor is going through the qualification process. Waiting times for a doctor’s appointment are now down to an average 20 days.

“Are we saying a 20-day wait is okay?” asked Councillor Steve Adams.

Not necessarily, said Mouallem, “but it’s better than before.”

Tourism society

Good news, said Councillor Kim Hughes. The tourism society board has a full complement, with some new, enthusiastic members.

Beach Fest planning is picking up steam; the most recent meeting saw “a great turnout,” she said, with lots of ideas for activities for the Aug. 10 and 11 event.

Naming committee

Councillor Mouallem reported that the committee met recently and one of the things it did was review the ‘reserve’ list of names. These are names that were at some point considered worthy to have something in town named after them. But for many of them, there’s no record of why they were nominated, or background information, he said.

The committee agreed (with council) that anyone from the community wanting something named for somebody should make the presentation to the committee first, not council.

Finally, the committee is waiting for a formal request from council to look into a name for the permanent homeless shelter.

Councillor Gramlich made a motion to that effect, which was carried.

Community Education Committee

Councillor Andrew Achoba reported that this group is hosting a meeting in May of all the CECs, from all the communities served by Northern Lakes College. The group is also looking at the possibility of starting up a daycare to serve college employees and students.

Lesser Slave Watershed Council: keeping an eye out for invasive mussels

March 7 is the date for a drought resiliency workshop, Achoba reported. It’s a joint project of the LSWC and the Athabasca Watershed Council, and is being held in Athabasca.

In other news, the LSWC is set to launch its eighth year of monitoring tributaries of Lesser Slave Lake, at 15 sites. It is also working with the provincial government to keep an eye out for invasive mussels at boat launches on Lesser Slave and Fawcett Lakes.

Airport commission: still working on the erosion control thing

This group is still hoping to find an affordable way to stop erosion of airport land by Lesser Slave Lake. A high water event several years ago resulted in the lake encroaching, and if it happens again, Ferguson said, “we could lose some runway.”

The airport has around $400,000, and it’s looking as if it won’t be enough to get erosion elimination, Ferguson said, but might buy some erosion reduction.

State of the Lake

Councillor Mouallem plugged the Regional Arts Council’s Paint Night event (at the Legion?), the Chamber’s business awards gala on March 9 and the U13 Tier 2 Provincials, in late March.

“We’re still looking for someone to live-stream the event,” he said.

Mayor Ward had the final word: consultation sessions (also online) on a permanent homeless shelter will start in late February, she said. Stay tuned for details on dates, etc.

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