Veg lead hand
The M.D. had already hired a ‘lead hand’ inspector for the M.D.’s weed and pest control programs. But under the relevant provincial legislation, the appointment must be done by council. Accordingly, council voted in favour of the appointment of Morgan Cryderman to the position at their July 19, 2023 meeting.
Cryderman is no newcomer; she’s worked with the M.D. for four years. She’ll be based at the Flatbush office.
Peace Library System seeks raise
The M.D. provides funding to the Peace Library System (PLS) on a per capita basis. The rate hasn’t changed since 2018, council heard, and the PLS is looking for a five per cent increase in each of the next three years. It would start with a $6.69 per capita rate, rising to $7.37 in 2026.
The 2023 rate is $6.37, which translates to a total M.D. contribution of $17,077.98.
Council’s motion was not to grant the request, but to put it on the agenda for 2024 budget deliberations.
Next step in Smith re-zoning
After a public hearing produced no opposition, council gave second reading to the bylaw change that will see a residential lot in Smith go from Residential Un-serviced to Residential Serviced designation.
The application came about when, due to a subdivision, the lot line was changed. This created a situation where the new lot was part one designation and part the other. The application is to get that cleared up.
“It makes total sense,” said councillor Norm Seatter.
Third and final reading of the bylaw change will have to wait for endorsement of the subdivision.
Bridge work to highest bidder
Thurber Engineering will do geo-technical work on the Smith Bridge, after council was advised two other bidders on the job did not meet the requirements. The work is part of the preliminary design work on a replacement bridge and involves bathymetric, physical and geotechnical survey work.
Thurber had by far the highest bid, at $832,332. But according to the report in council’s package, the other two did not address the need for an ice bridge. They also failed to address the slide on the north bank, among other deficiencies.
Those oversights, in the view of the consulting engineer, “would likely lead to incomplete work, scope changes and/or a poor overall design.”
Council accepted that and voted to award the contract to Thurber.
Council had a report from Associated Engineering on the impact of the high water in late June on the bridge over the Athabasca River at Smith. In sum, there wasn’t much – at least not that the inspector could see two days after the water peaked. The general condition of the structure, however, isn’t that good. Various items of dilapidation are included – with photographs – in the report.
The flood did cause some embankment erosion. Presenting the report, CAO Barry Kolenosky told council the M.D. will likely have to do some shoring up. Debris accumulated on one of the piers will also have to be removed.
The news could have been much worse. It’s assumed the scour repairs the M.D. had done last winter around the base of the north pier made a difference. If we hadn’t done that work, Kolenosky said, the bridge might have been washed out and on its way downriver.
A survey of the scour around the two piers in the river is recommended as well. This could show how effective the added riprap was.
Removal of unstable trees is also recommended.
Signing up for Voyent Alert
Council accepted a recommendation to sign up for the Voyent Alert! system of notifying member of the public about emergencies and other things that arise. People have to download the app and register, and can choose how they want to be notified.
“This is the Cadillac,” Kolenosky told council. Not only that, “when you look at costs, it’s a no-brainer.”
Kolenosky said the M.D. has been spending about $120,000 per year for whatever emergency alert system it has been using. Voyent is $5,800 for the first year, plus a $500 one-time fee.
A problem with fish guts
Can the M.D. provide some means of disposing of fish guts? That was a question before council, made by the manager of the campground at Canyon Creek.
Apparently there isn’t an effective disposal method, and the smell of rotting fish offal is interfering with the enjoyment of the area, for some people.
What’s actually requested is a fish-cleaning station, with the means of “grinding and disposing fish remains into the sewer system.”
The problem with that, council heard (not for the first time), is that the M.D.’ sewage treatment system can’t handle fish remains, no matter how well-ground they might be.
I like the idea of some sort of containment on site, said Pearson, but $100,000 for every location? Not realistic.
People catching one or two fish aren’t going to make the effort, observed councillor Sandra Melzer, and made a motion to accept the letter as information.
“Then we’re going nowhere,” said councillor Nancy Sand.
However, the motion was carried.
Council voted in favour of two other motions, both by Pearson. One was to send a letter to the Canyon Creek Recreation Association, explaining the situation. The other was to send a letter to the fisheries management branch of the government, asking for advice.
Membranes needed for Canyon water plant
One year after being installed, new water treatment plant membranes at Canyon Creek are failing. Attempts to repair them are going on, but council was being asked to approve the order of new ones, for around $100,000.
One drawback to that is an estimated 60-week wait time on the new ones.
“We’ll limp along until we get them?” asked Seatter.
Administration has some ideas, said department director Donna Cross.
Council approved the reallocation of 100 grand from another utilities project that looks as if it will be well under budget.
Financials: new kid on the block
Council got a six-month update on the 2023 financial picture, from brand-new, interim director of finance Holly Omelchuk.
Making it sound like a new era, Omelchuk told council “we are reviewing all aspects of our processes,” adding, “it’s going to take a little while.”
Looking over the list of operational expenditures, councillor Pearson noticed money had been spent on crack-sealing and commented on it. It’s already finished, he was told.
“It hasn’t been done in Canyon,” Pearson said. “It should be done every year.”
The operations report was accepted as information.
On the capital side, Kolenosky said, “We’re pretty confident the majority of this list will be finished by the fall.”
Thirty-two capital projects were listed on a colour-coded spread sheet, with green representing completed ones, yellow being ‘in progress,’ and red indicating something experiencing problems. There are two of those – the Old Smith Highway re-routing and Southshore Estates drainage. No explanation was offered.
Completed ones include the Flatbush parking lot, heater in Smith Arena and HVAC replacement at the head office.
In progress (the most by far) include a couple related to the Smith Bridge, a couple of truck fill station upgrades, Marten Beach secondary access, Smith pavement re-hab and Lesser Slave River boat launch.
Some projects will be over budget, Kolenosky said, and some will be under.
“It’ll balance itself out.”
“That’s what Trudeau says!” quipped Pearson.
Agreements between M.D. and TOSL
The M.D. has been going over a couple of agreements it has with the Town of Slave Lake and these were ready for approval.
One is on the operation of the Visitor Information Centre. The other is on sharing of peace officer resources.
For the VIC, the agreement mainly spells out what the town does – which is operate the visitor services during the warm months. The M.D. pays for half of this service.
The M.D. is looking after building maintenance, although this is not specified in the agreement. The agreement does mention the M.D. gets to use all the back offices.
On the peace officer side of things, the agreement simply authorizes each others’ peace officers to help out in the other jurisdiction, when asked. That has in fact already been happening. This formalizes it.
“It seems to work well,” said Kolenosky.
He gave a recent example, where town officers helped when wildfires were threatening residents east toward Smith.
New website on the way
Included in a report for council by Tangent Civic, was the news that the consulting company is developing a new website for the M.D. – the first update since 2011. The report promises it will make searching for information easier, plus various other improvements.
This was welcome news to councillor Pearson, who comments frequently about how difficult he finds the M.D. website.
Councillor Lana Spencer is also keen for improvements.
“We have to have our proper legislation posted,” she said.
“It’s a struggle to find the policies!” added Pearson. “Confusing.”
Waste management: other ways of doing business?
Councillor Fulmore reported that the leachate situation at the landfill in Athabasca County is pretty good, thanks to the dry spring. The system can handle it.
The system at the Wagner landfill is more complicated, but not because of leachate. There was another break-in, Pearson reported, with a lot of hand tools and other stuff stolen.
Taking up the narrative, councillor Spencer said a consultant’s report on the operation revealed that without three big clients, “we would be in serious trouble.”
The recommendation is to look at other ways of doing business. One is to “join forces” with another commission – say Athabasca. Another is to turn the landfill into a transfer station, with waste being trucked elsewhere.
Recycling is apparently doing nothing but costing money. Something called ‘EPR’ (Extended Producer Responsibility) is looking to cost the commission even more.
Community Education Committee looking at oilfield program
This group hadn’t met recently, but councillor Seatter reported that a new oilfield operator training program is being contemplated. The college has had a request from “several oil companies,” he said, to revive the program. Seatter has been asked to sit on a committee.
Homeland Housing: men catching up to women
Melzer’s report included some interesting statistics on residents. Fifty-two per cent are 85 – 99 years old, she said. Sixty per cent are women and 40 per cent men. That’s in sharp contrast to just four years ago, when only 20 per cent of the residents were male.
Municipal Planning Commission approves a ‘shouse’
Spencer reported that the MPC approved something she called a ‘shouse’ (shop/house) on the Old Smith Highway. Also approved was a subdivision at Lawrence Lake – most of a quarter section into four lots.
A building to house a school at Assineau was approved. This will be a new home for a school that is operating now off of Poplar Lane.
Spencer reported about the Aug. 12 and 13 Beach Fest at Devonshire Beach. It’ll include a beer garden, on the beach (an earlier idea of holding it on Dog Island was abandoned), fireworks, sandcastles, etc.
Policing could be a headache, observed councillor Pearson.
In other tourism news, the group has to look at other sources of funding, Spencer said, since the grants that launched it and allowed for the hiring of person are running out.
“You can’t get grants for admin. support,” Spencer said. “And if you don’t have admin. support…..”
“Nothing happens,” added Seatter.
Health advocacy committee hears more about nursing shortages
This committee may or may not be doing much advocating, but it certainly receives a lot of information about the state of health care provision in Slave Lake. One new thing Pearson reported was that a whole wing of the acute care side of the hospital has been more or less turned over to long-term care, for people waiting to get into the proper long-term care wing. There aren’t enough nurses for acute care anyway, Pearson said.
“We’ve been promised five international nurses,” he said, “but they haven’t materialized.”
Wage discrepancies among nurses is also an issue, apparently.
“I don’t know a nurse that isn’t frustrated,” said Spencer.
Pembina Zone (of the RMA)
One hot topic of discussion among rural municipalities is the allocation of provincial firefighting resources. This spring, issues arose when those resources were diverted from wildfires outside of the Forest Protection Area, for ones inside of it. This left certain counties feeling abandoned and unsupported.
The idea is to come up with a strategy for addressing this issue, and presenting it at the annual Rural Municipalities Association conference.
by Joe McWilliams