Council’s Aug. 10, 2023 meeting was held at council chambers in Wabasca, with all 11 council members present. Council adopted the agenda with the following additions: RCMP, director workshop, crime issues and staffing issue.
Projects moving along
In CAO Chad Tullis’s report for council was the news that several capital projects were well underway. These included Sandy Lake gasification, the Colling Lake seniors’ housing construction and Wabasca kennel expansion, plus paving in Wabasca, arena sound system upgrades and a gazebo and playground in Red Earth Creek.
On the money side of things, Tullis informed council capital expenditures were sitting at $5.7 million. Operationally, the M.D. had spent $29.2 million. Revenues stood at $68.8 million. An asset management clerk has been hired, Tullis reported, and preparations for the new budget year are underway. Admin. would like to have a pre-budget meeting with council as soon as early September, to get the ball rolling.
Regulating heavy truck parking in hamlets
After a public hearing, council gave the final two readings to a new bylaw aimed at regulating the parking of heavy trucks in hamlets.
There have been some issues (I.e. complaints) about such parking, which prompted the M.D. effort to do something about it.
One clause of the new bylaw is that there will be “no heavy truck parking on a residential lot smaller than 0.5 acres in size.”
On residential lots of more than 0.5 acres, “one heavy truck is allowed.”
Heavy truck parking lots are allowed under the amended bylaw. Such parking lots were not previously listed as a use within any district. Now they’ll be allowed in various zones, according to the discretion of council.
At the hearing, nobody opposed the bylaw.
Community Futures on the Housing Accelerator Fund
Josh Friesen of Community Futures Lesser Slave Lake (CF) presented to council about a program called Housing Accelerator Fund. It is not very clear from the minutes what is being proposed, but it appears as if some funds for housing projects are available. Friesen suggested a ‘working group’ be formed to develop a plan for the M.D. of Opportunity. At some point, a financial contribution from the municipality would be required.
Council approved a motion to authorize CF “to assist in the Housing Accelerator Fund application.”
Org. chart tweak could cost up to $418,000
Organizational changes recommended by administration were accepted by council. One of those is to put M.D. bylaw enforcement under “its own umbrella,” instead of under the Corporate and Regulatory Services department. As such, it will have three community peace officers.
“These positions will allow the M.D. to increase level of service,” says the report in council’s agenda package.
The report further calls for two new ‘security’ positions for Calling Lake, one in Wabasca and one in Red Earth Creek (combined with animal control duties).
The total annual financial impact is estimated at $119,280 to $173,982.
Within Corporate & Regulatory Services, proposed is a new regional fire chief and a deputy fire chief – additional cost estimated to be between $102,000 and $136,000.
Finally, the proposal is to add a supervisor to the facility maintenance department, estimated to cost the M.D. between $77,000 and $108,000.
Overall, the estimated financial impact falls somewhere between $299,517 and $418,645.
Inviting the RCMP
Council voted favour of a motion to invite two detachment commanders and the K Division boss to a council meeting. The reasons for the invitation did not make it into the minutes, but the names did: they are Sgt. Mark Hall of the Athabasca detachment, Sgt. Amie Blize of the Wabasca detachment and Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki of the Alberta RCMP to the Aug. 23 meeting in Calling Lake.
Ornamental metal signs
The M.D. wants to beautify its road systems, with signs that will withstand high winds and weather. The answer is a set of decorative metal signs attached to light poles.
It comes with a cost, and council was asked to add $100,000 to the 2023 budget for the purpose.
According to the written report, the signs are designed and made by a resident of Calling Lake, and will cost the M.D. $2,700 apiece. The budget for 2023 was reported as $86,400, which should amount to 32 signs.
Four of the designs are reproduced in the agenda package. They depict bears, wolves, a moose and eagles.
In the report from the Director of Corporate and Regulatory Services was the usual detail on recent hires, job openings and such. It may have changed by now, but as of Aug. 10 there were openings in early childhood education, equipment operation and utilities.
The Golden Opportunity Centre (medical clinic in Wabasca) had 1,368 ‘clinic encounters’ in the month of June.
It has been “a very tough year,” for the doctors at the clinic, according to Dr. Hassen, whose report is in council’s agenda package.
Two doctors missed time due to family health issues, which resulted in Wabasca having only two full-time physicians at any one time over the past six months.
Also tough, according to Dr. Hassen, is the relationship between the clinic and the Keekenow seniors’ centre in Wabasca. Due to their workload at the clinic it’s been difficult for them to find the time to see patients at the seniors’ residence.
If another doctor is hired, it would alleviate the situation, Hassen said.
The M.D. transferred two dogs to SCARS (Second Chance Animal Rescue Society), to make room in the Wabasca kennel for two “abandoned and aggressive dogs” from Sandy Lake. The kennel has (or had, at the time of the report), nine dogs and zero cats.
SCARS itself was “overwhelmed,” says the report, but was working to make room for dogs from the M.D.
There are “growing concerns” the report continues, that residents are keeping more than the three-dog-per-household limit.
Calling Lake homes for seniors
Council had an updated budget for this 10-home project to review. The approved budget of $4.1 million had been exceeded by just under half a million dollars. The total additional funding needed is $485,100.
The extra expenses include $150,000 for water and sewer hook-up and $120,000 for ‘shallow utilities.’
Council approved the extra expenditure. Council further approved the awarding of the contract for sewer and water hook-ups to Remote Oil & Gas for $147,000.
Council voted in favour of a motion to extend the contract for collection and disposal of scrap metal from two M.D. landfills and one transfer station. Tystar Trucking will continue to do the work for another year.
In 2022 and thus far in 2023, the M.D. has made a profit of $8,484 on the disposal of the scrap.
The cost in the contract extension is $50 per tonne for Wabasca and Calling Lake and $30 per tonne for Red Earth Creek.
by Joe McWilliams