Feb. 20, 2018 meeting
Recruitment and retention big for fire department
Recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters is once again the top priority for the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service. Chief Jamie Coutts mentioned that more than once in his annual report to town council on Feb. 20. The halls at Smith, Widewater and Mitsue are in particular need of more people, and among those, Smith is in the worst shape.
“We have a big recruitment drive there,” said Coutts. “It’s tough, because that hall has the second most calls.”
According to numbers in the written report, Hall 2 in Smith responded to 43 incidents in 2017. Widewater responded to 28, Flatbush 23, Mitsue 10 and Search and Rescue nine. The Slave Lake hall responded to 308 calls. All told, it was the busiest year ever for the service, Coutts said.
One type of call that’s up quite a bit is called ‘medical assist.’ Coutts called it surprising and if it keeps growing it could become a problem.
“It’s tricky,” he said. “How much First Aid do we teach? How much money do we spend on it?”
Commenting on the situation, councillor Darin Busk said he doesn’t want the health authorities to get too comfortable with the fire department being first responders in medical situations.
“They’re going to have to put up some money to train you guys up,” he said, “or make sure there’s enough resources here.”
“We do the best we can,” said Coutts. “I don’t know how many more calls we can do before I’ll be back here talking to you.”
Something notable coming up in 2018 is the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association (CVFSA) annual conference, in Slave Lake. It’s scheduled for Sept. 24 – 30 and will see 300 firefighters from across the country congregating in Slave Lake.
Apartments to be billed differently
Council approved a change to the town’s bylaw on utility rates and procedures that will see apartments getting charged more for water and sewer. As explained by accounting supervisor Christina Ridley, the current practice is to charge an apartment building one base rate for water and sewer, with water charges on top of that based on consumption. The new system will see a base rate for water and sewer charged for each apartment. So instead of paying just $26.43 per month base rate, a 40-unit building would pay $1,057 per month, plus consumption.
It’s a big difference, and given that landlords have to give three months’ notice of a rent increase, mayor Warman suggested implementation be delayed to give them time to do that. Accordingly, the new system will kick in July 1.
Water meter tampering
Tampering with water metres goes on, and the town would like more teeth in enforcing the rules against it. Typically this sort of thing happens when the water to a property is shut off due to non-payment of bills.
“Attempts to bypass the water meter and reopen the curb cock to access water illegally had been happening,” said Ridley’s written report for council. The town had been unable to issue tickets for this “due to lack of clarity” in the bylaw.
Council approved a bylaw change to provide that clarity.
You pay more for not paying
Council also approved a $35 administration fee for transferring outstanding town utility bills to the tax rolls. This is something the town does anyway, as it makes it more likely the unpaid bills will ultimately be collected. However, it takes time to do this, and the hope is the new fee will discourage people from allowing it to go that far.
If there’s one thing property developers don’t like, it’s off-site levies. However, many municipalities charge them, as a way of raising funds for infrastructure upgrades. It’s standard practice, because grants and property taxes don’t nearly come close enough to raising enough money for new roads, sewer, water lines and upgrades to water plants and so on. The theory goes that since development will inevitably force expensive extension of these essential components of infrastructure – and will be the chief beneficiaries of it – the developers should have to bear a proportionate share of the burden.
The rules on off-site levies are changing a bit, council heard in a report on the topic from planning and development director Laurie Skrynyk. The new Municipal Government Act lengthens the list of items that such levies can be charged for. This includes new police stations and recreation facilities.
Council wasn’t being asked to make any decision or changes to the town’s current policy on off-site levies, and didn’t. Summing up, mayor Warman said the status quo looks good to him.
“We made some changes,” he said. “It’s easier (now) for developers to deal with it.”