March 17, 2020 meeting
Essential services to be maintained
“This week has been a real change in our lives,” said Gordon Lundy, interim CAO for the Town of Slave Lake, leading off his report for council.
Lundy went on to say that town administration is focusing on plans to keep essential services running. Part of the planning involves coordination with the M.D. of Lesser Slave River on sharing staff if it comes down to that. Lundy made a point of thanking the M.D. for its cooperation. What exactly are ‘essential’ services he did not define, but he did say the goal is to “make sure water comes out of the tap and we can flush our toilets.”
The town’s safety officer is fully engaged, Lundy said, in figuring out how to keep staff members safe so they can keep working on the provision of those vital services.
Town programs canceled: how long not known
All town recreational and educational events have been canceled, said Lundy in his report. Not all programs have, but the way they are delivered is being altered. For example, the income tax prep program for seniors continues, but won’t be done in person.
Councillor Darin Busk asked if plans were in place to resume programs after the COVID-19 crisis passes.
The social distance thing won’t last forever, Busk said, or words to that effect.
True enough, said Lundy. Garry Roth (community services director) and his staff “will follow through.”
Keepers workshop postponed until the fall
Jule Asterisk of Keepers of the Athabasca made another presentation to council on a series of free cultural education workshops the organization is presenting. The last one of the workshops ‘Where’s My Power,’ was to happen in April. It will probably happen now in the fall, Asterisk said.
She also encouraged (again) councillors to attend.
“We haven’t seen any councillors at any meeting,” she said, adding that in all the other communities (including High Prairie) where the workshops have been presented, at least one municipal councillor has shown up.
Mayor Tyler Warman, apparently a bit taken aback by that information, urged Asterisk to let council know when a date is chosen for the last workshop.
Asterisk went on to say that free energy audits are also available, and a couple have been done in Slave Lake. One of those was at the Wesleyan Church. Pastor Peggy Yetman tells The Leader it provided a lot of great ideas.
“We would love to take advantage of them, but the problem is finding the funding,” she says.
Capital projects might go on ‘pause’
Calling these “extraordinary times,” mayor Warman introduced the idea that the town might pull back from some of the work it has planned for the 2020 construction season.
“We need to take a good look at capital projects,” he said.
Clarifying, Warman said the town is not canceling anything at this point. But given the current disaster response mode the town is in, and further given the possibility town staff might have to be quarantined, “council is concerned about capacity.” So if a project isn’t ‘essential,’ Warman continued, “maybe we should just pause.”
Accordingly, council requested a report on 2020 capital projects, rating their importance and such. That should come to the next regular meeting, which is scheduled for April 7.
Council gave first reading to a bylaw change that would allow a greenhouse operation in the downtown zone. This comes following an application by a local business to start a ‘micro-greens’ operation in the basement. The matter comes up for a public hearing on April 7. (See story on the proposed business venture on Page 24 of this edition of The Leader.)
Council went through the motions and proclaimed the town’s inter-municipal collaboration framework (ICF) obligations taken care of. The previous government had mandated that neighbouring municipalities create these collaboration deals. For some rural jurisdictions, that meant many separate agreements had to be hammered out. For Slave Lake, it was just the one and as it turned out, the agreements already in place with the M.D. of Lesser Slave River sufficed. So it was a matter of formally stating that the Inter-municipal Development Plan will serve as the ICF as well.
“We’re fortunate the town and M.D. have a great relationship,” said mayor Warman.
“The last week has been crazy,” said Warman, starting off his report. He said he’d been spending a lot of time at the town office. Much of it has been taken up with producing video updates on the virus crisis response – both as general information and town-specific stuff.
“Every hour things are changing,” he observed.
Warman praised his fellow councillors and town staff for staying calm and focused, which under the circumstances is important and very helpful.
“Hats off to council,” Warman said. “We’re getting a lot of questions. I think this is the most anxious our community has ever been. People want regular updates.
“We will get back to normal,” Warman continued. “It’s going to take some time. We’re going to have to have a lot of patience.”
Closing the town office is something that could happen in the next days, Warman said Holding meetings by teleconference is another possibility.