Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Feb. 6, 2018 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Snow-clearing better than it used to be, says town manager

Snow-clearing of streets is going well, CAO Brian Vance reported to councillors at their first meeting of the month. The new system instituted last year has resulted in the graders being able to get around to all streets more times than before. Three complete passes have been done this winter already, he said. Hauling of snow from downtown and crescents was also done last week. Plus, some intersections have been getting sand and salt treatment two or three times a day.
The reason the intersections need so much attention, Vance said, is that the salt in the mix doesn’t do what it’s supposed to below a certain temperature, and the sand ends up not sticking.

Water meter headaches continue: alternate solution coming

The failure of water meters continues, Vance reported, and the manufacturer continues to be unable to keep up with the replacement of parts on warrantee.
“I was told he has about a thousand towns in Canada and probably more in the U.S., so it’s going to take a while.”
In the meantime, the town is working on an interim solution, which council expects to hear this week.

Review board appointed to deal with property assessment appeals

Council passed two motions with regard to the appointment of an assessment review board. This is the group that would hear appeals of property tax assessment. It’s supposed to be a panel independent of the municipality, so for the past few years the town has engaged an outfit called the Capital Region Assessment Review Board (CRARB).
Prior to 2010, the town appointed its own assessment review board. However, it was tough keeping it going, due to lack of volunteers, not to mention the required training. So Slave Lake – along with several other municipalities – went with the CRARB.
It’s important to note that the board’s only role is to review the process by which property value assessments have been carried out, Vance advised council. Property owners should not expect the board to make any recommendations with regard to mill rates or tax levies.
In practice, Vance said, “what’s happened 100 per cent of the time the last few years is people (appellants) haven’t won.” The reason is the assessors by then have already corrected any mistakes (say in property measurement) they might have made.
Council’s second motion was to approve the list of recommended panelists on the CRARB.

Tweaking the Land-Use Bylaw

Council gave first reading to a proposed amendment of the Land Use Bylaw and set a public hearing for March 6. The changes, council heard, are in accordance with recent updates to the Municipal Government Act. They mainly have to do with how the town deals with development applications. For example, the appeal period is to be lengthened. For another, the town is required to notify an applicant if a development permit application is deemed complete or incomplete.
Also, a section has been added detailing “the applicant’s responsibilities with respect to development.”

Site inspections policy approved, with minor changes

Council was asked to approve a policy on planning and development site inspections. It details what sort of things the town should be inspecting and how to go about it. This usually requires written permission from the property owner.
Only one aspect of the policy as proposed provoked any questions. This was the one that stated that regardless of the practice of obtaining permission, in extraordinary circumstances the town may conduct an inspection “without reasonable notice.”
Isn’t that going a bit too far? asked councillor Darin Busk. “What would condone that level of authority?”
Planning and development director Laurie Skrynyk said the clause “comes right out of the MGA (Municipal Government Act).” She added that she couldn’t think of any situation where an inspection without permission would actually be done.
“I’m not comfortable with it,” said Busk.
Skrynyk said she had no problem striking the clause. Busk made a motion to approve the amended policy on that basis. The motion was approved.

Landfill requisition the same for this year

Council approved a status quo funding requisition from the regional landfill commission, at $295,469. The same as last year’s, at any rate. That represented a big increase from previous years, due to the landfill going sharply into deficit thanks to an unexpected loss of revenue.

Lobbying for ‘equitable’ police funding

The organization that lobbies government on behalf of urban municipalities in Alberta (AUMA) is asking its members to join in with letters of support. What it advocates is a different model for government funding for policing. At the moment, towns with over 5,000 people are largely responsible for paying for police services. Towns under 5,000 aren’t; nor are M.D.s and counties. The AUMA has a list of proposals for what it calls “equitable” funding, which in a nutshell would see the burden reduced on town’s like Slave Lake.
“Policing costs us $1.6 million a year,” said mayor Warman. “It’s not an equitable split. I’m in favour of the Solicitor General taking a look at it.”
Accordingly, Warman proposed that the town send a letter to that effect to the Sol-Gen. Council voted in favour of it.

Caribou strategy takes mayor to Edmonton

Warman informed his council colleagues he’s been talking a lot with other elected leaders about the provincial caribou management strategy. This is a suite of proposed measures that has industry and some municipal leaders quite nervous. He said he and some of those other leaders would be meeting with provincial people in Edmonton for talks.
“We’re looking for a balanced approach,” he said.

Regional water line moving along

Vance’s report for council included an item about the progress in the construction of the regional water line from Wagner to Slave Lake. The pumphouse walls have been poured and the grade level floor was being prepped for pouring, he said. As for the pipeline (different job, different contractor) that was underway with brushing and PVC pipe-fusing along the line. He figured directional drilling for the pipe would begin “in the next week or two.”
In other water line news, the Main St. North project had been at a standstill due to cold weather.

Capital budget: more needs than wants

Warman’s final piece of information for the evening had to do with council’s discussions on the 2018 capital budget. Warman’s chief impression so far was that, “there are a lot of needs and not many wants.”
A lot of those ‘needs’ are in the area of road rehabilitation and with that come questions of how to pay for it. Local improvement levies are part of the conversation.
“We have to fund it from somewhere,” he said.
Discussions on capital budget continue, but a full day’s wrangling (Feb. 6) had put “a substantial dent” in it,” Warman said.

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