Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Feb. 20, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Some crimes down

RCMP Staff Sgt. Casey Bruyns presented his quarterly report to council. It had some good news: property crimes and crimes against persons were both down in the third quarter of 2023, as compared to the same time period in 2022. Property crimes by 29 per cent and persons crimes 40 per cent.

Some of that is likely due to changes made in September and October, Bruyns said. The changes had to do with scheduling and coverage of certain areas of town.

The bulk of Bruyns’ presentation – and the discussion that followed – had to do with a request by council that the RCMP dedicate a member to working with schools. Not just any member, but one of the two General Investigation Section (I.e. plainclothes) officers.

Bruyns took some trouble to explain why that would be a bad idea. The GI officers, he told council, are very busy with what he called “complex investigations,” many of them involving the illegal drug trade. Taking one of them away would leave a single member in that job, which he said would make it hard to do properly. He emphasized the importance of the plainclothes work to the success of the detachment in combatting crime. Surveillance, managing sources, etc: “I won’t go into too much detail,” he said.

It would be great to have the school resource person, Bruyns added, but to take the GI member away, “would be terrible for us.”

Councillors, in their questions, made it plain they think communication between the RCMP and council could be better.

“If we don’t know what’s going on,” said Mayor Frankie Ward, “I can assure you the public doesn’t.”

Bruyns said there’s a plan in the works to provide monthly updates to the town, for publication on the town’s comms platforms.

Application for demolition derby

The Slave Lake Motocross Association had applied for a development permit for the proposed demolition derby site, next to its motocross facility south of town. The recommendation was to approve the application, with various conditions. These have to do with parking, garbage containment and camping, among others.

After hearing that admin. has no concerns about the development, council was more than willing to give it the thumbs’ up.

One thing in its favour, council heard was that it’s far enough out of town to be unlikely to bother anyone. Other development in that area, if it ever happens “won’t be for quite some time.”

Assessment audit: no worries

Property value assessment is done for municipalities by private contractors. Every once in a while the provincial government audits a municipalities’ assessment, to see if it’s being done properly. Slave Lake’s was done last year. A report on the results was on the agenda.

On the whole, the town passed with flying colours, council heard. The only recommendation was that the town should create a bylaw or pass a resolution to appoint the current assessor, KCL Consulting.

The next item on the agenda was to do just that, I.e. appoint Kevin Lawrence of KCL Consulting as the town’s property value assessor, by way of a bylaw, for the balance of the contract period.

The contracts are usually for four-year terms. KCL has been doing the work for the town for 20 years or more.

Special events permit incentive: apply in time, or else!

People who apply at the last minute for permits for special events have been causing the town’s planning department major headaches for years. The town would like to eliminate or at least reduce those headaches, and has a plan to do so, which was before council for consideration.

The plan is to charge a $500 fee for such applications that come in less than 14 days prior to the date of the event. This is especially aimed at what the report calls ‘repeat offenders.’

Further proposed is a $500 fine for events that go ahead regardless, without the permit.

“This is meant as an incentive to those repeat offenders,” said CAO Simpson, “who have historically been late with their applications.”

Admin was asked how the new measures are being communicated. In person, they heard, with the so-called repeat offenders. Otherwise, there will be “numerous warnings.”

“I like it,” said Councillor Shawn Gramlich, noted organizer of special events,
Council approved the amendment to the Planning and Development Fees Bylaw as proposed.

Four properties on tax recovery auction list

It’s that time of year again: Some properties with a sufficient history of unpaid taxes are on a list for sale in a tax-recovery auction. Few, if any, will still be on that list by the time the auction date comes, but the town needs to go through the motions, just in case.

Council had to make several motions. One was to accept the list of properties; one was to approve the reserve bids as shown; one was to set the date (April 10, 2024) for the auction; one was to approve the terms and conditions for the sale.

Four properties are on the list. One, on 3 Ave. NW, owes nearly $16,000 in taxes. The reserve bid amount is $95,000.

Another property on the list is on 2 Ave. NW. Its unpaid tax history stretches back five years and is up to $38,594 (including penalties). The reserve bid is $430,000.

A third property is on 7 St. SW. It has $35,000 owing, and the reserve bid amount is set at $410,000.
The fourth property is on Pioneer Dr. SW. Owing on it is $8,225 and the reserve bid amount is $102,000.

Councillor Steve Adams said if the purpose of the sale is for the town to collect the back taxes, why doesn’t it set the reserve bid amounts a lot lower, so as to improve its chances of collecting.

There’s an onus from the courts to set a reasonable price, said CAO Jeff Simpson. There are other people with an interest in the money made in a sale – other creditors, perhaps, or at least the owner. We can’t just do a fire-sale price to meet our own interests.

In practice, though, and as noted above, very few such properties actually make it onto the auction block. In most cases, the owners make tax payment arrangements, which they are allowed to do right up until the last minute.

Road closure finalized

About a year after council gave first reading to a road closure bylaw amendment, it was back for final endorsement.

Why it took so long is that it spent about nine months on the desk of the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, who must approve any road closures. That’s what sometimes happens with these files, council heard.

The road in question is not actually a road, but a walkway connecting 7th St. and 11th Ave. SW (where they join) with a back alley. The owners of one of the adjacent lots had applied a couple of years ago to purchase the alley so as to enlarge their lot, given that it serves no useful purpose.

Council agreed with that and gave first reading to the required bylaw change in February of 2023. This time they finished it off with the final two readings.

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