June 9, 2020 meeting
Inching into re-opening
News from the interim CAO was that just because rec facilities had been cleared for re-opening on June 12, it wouldn’t be happening quickly. Gordon Lundy told council facility managers would be presenting plans for re-opening safely, and that it would take some time.
The town office for example, wasn’t ready.
Commenting on the situation, mayor Tyler Warman said that pretty much as soon as the province announced the Stage II re-opening plan, people were on the phone asking when the rec centre and pool would be open.
“It’s going to take time,” he said.
How about the ball diamonds, asked councilor Darin Busk. Can we increase maintenance?
“We’ll have to ensure we have sufficient staff to do it,” said Lundy. “Right now we don’t.”
Hilltop activity won’t disrupt pressure
An upgrade to the water reservoir on the hill south of town shouldn’t cause problems with water pressure down below. That’s what council heard from project manager Kush Patel. Mayor Warman had asked about it, anticipating the calls he might get if there are pressure fluctuations due to the work.
Patel told The Leader subsequently work on the reservoir has commenced. Typically how the system works is the water plant pumps water up to the reservoir during the day and then the reservoir feeds the town (or maybe just part of it) by gravity during the night. The plan during the construction period is for the water plant to service all the town by running 24/7.
‘The circus continues’
Council approved a borrowing bylaw that will cover what the town owes on the demolition of two derelict properties late last year. The amounts have been put on the tax bills of the owners, but “the likelihood of them paying us off is pretty slim,” said Warman.
What’s anticipated is if the owners don’t pay up, the town would eventually be able to attempt to recoup the costs by way of a tax sale of the properties.
However that’s about a four-year process and the loans have to be paid back in three. Warman asked if there’s a way to extend the loan beyond three years. Nope. The term is specified in the Municipal Government Act.
Further bad news; the interest the town will pay on the loan cannot be passed on to the delinquent property owners.
“That’s crazy!” said Warman. “The circus continues.”
Good news on road repairs
It looks as if the town will get more road patching done this year than it thought it would. The reason is a lower-than-expected bid on the work.
Council had approved a budget of $391,437 for the work, which is described as a level above mere pothole patching but well below total street rehabilitation. ‘Fixing bad patches,’ in other words. The usual annual outlay for such work is $100,000, but the town found some extra money from an unspent grant from 2014.
Paveit Construction of Slave Lake was the successful bidder, at $140,740. With money left in the kitty, the idea is to add to the number of repairs around town.
Meetings during a pandemic
With limitations on the number of people allowed in a room being eased, council was asked whether it wanted to continue ‘streaming’ its meetings over the internet, in tandem with some version of the ‘in-person’ meeting type.
Various options were presented for council’s consideration, including one where more cameras and microphones are added for better online viewing.
Even with the gallery being opened at council meetings, “We’ll still have to social distance,” said Lundy.
Councillor Julie Brandle asked how many views council’s online meetings (on YouTube) are getting. The first one got 240 hits; subsequently the numbers have ranged from 75 – 100 per meeting. Of course those could be ‘after-the-fact’ views, since the sessions remain up online for anybody to view.
“I like the fact it is live,” said councilor Joy McGregor. “I think we should keep going this way.”
Mayor Warman wondered if the town would be in default of its obligations if the broadcasting equipment failed in the course of a meeting. Lundy had looked into that and the answer was ‘no.’ As long as people know they have the option of attending in person, the obligations under the act are being met.
“I’m fine with having the public back in here,” said councilor Shawn Gramlich.
Hwy. 88 pedestrian crossing
An update on this story; Alberta Transportation has confirmed that if the town wants to put some kind of pedestrian crossing over Hwy. 88 at Caribou Trail, an engineering design study is going to have to be part of it.
Next step? Meet with the Sawridge First Nation and talk about what to do next.
“Let’s meet with our neighbours before we get too carried away,” said Warman.
Charging network for E-vehicles?
In council’s agenda package was a letter from the Town of Edson, inviting Slave Lake’s participation in a northwestern Alberta network of charging stations for electric vehicles. Such a network exists in other regions. Slave Lake is being asked to contribute seed funding for the development of the network. Edson mayor Kevin Zahara estimated $30,000 to be the appropriate figure.
That money is not in the 2020 budget and council was not in the mood to put it there. They were generally warm, however, to the idea of the E/V charging network.
“It might bring more tourists to the area,” said councilor Busk.
“If it’s another amenity we can add it’s probably a worthwhile investment,” said Warman.
Council approved a letter of support and a contribution of $1,000.
Legal and engineering consultants – status quo or see what’s out there?
Council had asked for background information on its legal and engineering contract service providers. The underlying question was whether it is maybe time to consider new blood, or new expressions of interest.
Legal advice has been provided for many years by Brownlee LLP.
Engineering by Associated Engineering since 1994.
There are acknowledged advantages to dealing with firms with long-term familiarity with the town and its issues. This is more the case on the engineering side.
The town could do worse, said interim CAO Gordon Lundy, presenting the report.
“I’ve been involved with municipalities where the engineer wasn’t successful and we had to sue them. So there’s that.”
“So your recommendation is don’t mess with the system?” said mayor Warman.
Notwithstanding, councillor Brice Ferguson said he was for a review, to see what’s out there.
“It’s a box I want to peek in, just for peace of mind for myself,” he said.
Council passed a motion directing admin. to prepare a request for quotes for engineering and legal services.
“Babies are being delivered!” said councilor Joy McGregor, in her report on the most recent meeting of the Tri-Council Health Advisory Committee.
That was positive news. Less positive is that there’s been turnover on the nursing staff at the health care centre in Slave Lake.
Mental health issues are on the rise, McGregor said. Speaking of which, she encouraged her colleagues to look into “what is going on with nutrition and mental health (in schools).” She did not elaborate.
Mayor Warman jumped in to offer council’s thanks to retiring physicians John Keaveny and Terry O’Keeffe.
“We wish them the very best in their retirement,” he said. “They’ve definitely earned it.”
Library board: cautiously re-opening
McGregor reported that online programming by library staff has been successful, and that there is talk of continuing to do it after libraries re-open. As for the re-opening, it won’t be right away, she said, due to the time it takes to put safety procedures into place. So library visits will be by appointment only at first.
McGregor also reported on her attendance at a Peace Library System meeting. Forty people in a Zoom meeting can be challenging, but the facilitators did a good job, she said. One thing she learned is ‘E-resources’ have been very popular, and as a result, budgets are probably going to have to be adjusted.
Municipal Planning Commission
Councilor Shawn Gramlich said the MPC approved two home-based businesses. One is a hair salon and the other does spray-on tanning.
The MPC also extended the deadline for a company on Caribou Trail SW to remove some logs from its yard.
No meeting to report on, but Warman said the big news is the SL Child Care Society has asked for its rent for April and May to be waived. This amounts to $22,000.
“It’s a big one,” he said.