April 9, 2024 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Programs and events

Council got an update on programs and events offered by the town in the past six months or so, courtesy of Program Manager Laura Grottoli.

To make a long story short, there are a lot of programs and a lot of people are using them.

“Drop-in program numbers are back to, or above what our pre-COVID numbers were,” says the written report. “In the first quarter of 2024 we had 7,762 people enjoy our drop-in programming at the Multi Rec Centre.”

Grottoli told council things are going so well, if further growth in programming is to happen, more staff would be needed. As well, some equipment is getting old and needs replacing. Both things have budget implications.

Good job on Frost Fest, said Councillor Kim Hughes.

“It seems to be taking on a life of its own.”

Councillor Ali Mouallem said last year’s playground program the town did was a big hit with his kids.

“It adds some value for young families in our community,” he said.

Asphalt path for HE Park

Upgrades to Hilda Eben Park in the southeast part of Slave Lake continue in 2024 with the addition of a paved trail.

Council had allocated $195,000 in this year’s budget for the project, which includes some patching work on the Allarie Trails, elsewhere in town.

The town received three bids on the work. The lowest of these was from Paveit Construction of Slave Lake. Council accepted the recommendation to award the contract to Paveit, and made it so.

Councillor Ferguson asked about the exact route the paved pathways through the park will take. That’s yet to be determined, he was told. The project manager plans to go for a walk in the park with the contractor, and “lay it out on the grass.”

But the basic idea is to construct the asphalt paths on the routes people take in and out of the park, connecting the west, east and north access points from adjacent streets.

Hilda Eben Park, from above.
Photo courtesy of the Town of Slave Lake

New water main for 8th St. NW

The town got five bids on a job to install a new water main under 8th St. NW. Administration liked the lowest bid, and recommended council accept it. Council did.

Grayson Excavating Ltd., of Lacombe, will replace the old (51 years) six-inch iron water line with a 10-inch PVC pipe.

Making the report, town Project Manager Kush Patel told council the old line is nearing the end of its life, with six failures in the past couple of years. The bigger diameter will better meet flow requirements in the industrial area, he said.

The contract is for $675,000.

9th St. also

Another waterline replacement project going ahead is under 9th St. SE, between 11th and 12 Avenues. Council voted in favour the recommendation to award the contract to E Construction, for the price of $482,308. It was the lower of two bids received on the project.

The story on this one is pretty much the same as with 8th St. NW. During recent repairs, the exposed sections of line were noted to be in “very rough condition,” says the written report. It was installed in 1973.

Meet the new guy

CAO Jeff Simpson started his report to council by introducing the new Director of Community Services for the town, Joe Dixon. Dixon brings “a wealth of experience and knowledge to the position,” Simpson said.

Rural Renewal Stream busier

The program the town runs to connect employers wanting to hire foreign workers and foreign workers looking to get hired has seen some growth since the last report. Simpson said 49 employers are now participating, including 10 new ones from High Prairie and two new ones from Slave Lake. Eighty-eight letters of endorsement have been issued (18 of them new).

Recruitment

As noted, the community services director position was filled; same goes for RCMP clerks, summer day camp counsellors and travel counsellors. Still open are day camp counsellor and parks activity leader positions. In process is the hiring of a municipal intern.

Shelter numbers

The CAO’s report included numbers from the homeless shelter, which the town is now running and the province is funding.

One hundred twenty-one individuals have registered with the shelter in the past five months. Of those, 49 are females and 68 males. Seventy of the registrants have left town in the last three months, the report says.

The shelter has been seeing an average of 13 people per night. There’s a focus on recovery, the CAO told council. Clients are being helped to acquire documents, such as birth certificates and Alberta IDs. They’re being helped with applications for financial support, transportation and referrals to other helping agencies, among other things.

New businesses

The town has issued nine new business licences so far this year, in quite a range of services. They include well servicing, hypnotherapy, micro-greens, construction, tire repair, cannabis and ‘immigration solutions.’

Fire department

The Slave Lake fire hall has responded to 167 calls for service so far this year (as of April 3). Fifty-six of those were in March. These included eight outdoor fires, one structure fire, one vehicle fire, 10 motor vehicle collisions and 23 medical co-response calls.

Inter-Municipal Committee

Councillor Ferguson said at its last meeting this group talked about applying for funding for fire guards around communities. It also heard that two $30,000 grants to study policing had been approved – one for the M.D. and one for the town.

Also discussed was the status of the Hwy. 88 upgrade project.

Watershed

Councillor Andrew Achoba, attending from a remote location, informed his colleagues that the Government of Alberta plans to attend the May board meeting of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council. Municipal and industry reps will also be invited. To be discussed is the matter of low lake level and river flows, and the roles and responsibilities of the various players.

Alberta North Central Alliance

This group discussed a regional tourism model, said Mayor Ward in her report, and Indigenous tourism specifically. There’s a plan to apply for funding to conduct three needs assessments: one on tourism, one on mental health and addiction and one on workforce and business attraction. It’s hoped the results will help the group develop advocacy items in each case.

Tri Council health advocacy

Ward reported there’s a push to get the Slave Lake hospital’s operating room operating. It’s one of the top priorities of the hospital, she said. Having the OR open would mean anaesthesiologists could stay and work in the community.

Speaking of keeping doctors busy, Ward said a glitch in the system that resulted in Slave Lake not being included in the ‘Find A Doctor’ website. That’s now been fixed, she said, and local doctors who are accepting patients can be found on there.

Tourism

Beach Fest, the Aug. 10 and 11 event at Devonshire Beach is developing, reported Councillor Hughes. Lots of ideas are being tossed around, including proposals for ‘pop-up’ shops at the location for the weekend.
In the meantime, “more volunteers are needed!” she said.

Speaking of the beach, councillor Ferguson asked administration if it has any update on when the first beach clean-up will be scheduled, with the May long weekend getting closer.

The clean-up is a joint effort of the town, the M.D. and Alberta Parks. The beach clean-up was discussed at a meeting of the three parties, CAO Simpson said, but he couldn’t remember if a date had been chosen.

The Tourism Society will have a booth at the High Prairie Gun Show, April 20 and 21, Hughes reported. The group will also have a panelist role at the Spark the North conference in Slave Lake on April 25.

Municipal Planning Commission

Councillor Mouallem reported on the most recent business of this group. One industrial area development permit was approved as were three amendments to the Land-Use Bylaw (having to do with zoning). The commission also gave a thumbs’-up to a home-based business in the southeast part of town, after it passed its six-month review.

Regional waste management

With proper management of incoming land cover soil and recycling, said councillor Ferguson, we’ve manage to save approximately $2 million “in air space.” This allows the need for a new cell to be pushed back by a couple of years, Ferguson said, “which is very welcome news.”

The group approved the purchase of a new baling machine, plus a shed to house it. The cost is $176,000, but it’s anticipated the net annual benefit would be $124,000.

Airport

Ferguson reported a new hangar door was approved. As for shoreline stabilization, something new has come up. If we disturb the ground at all, Ferguson said, it could trigger a historical resources assessment, adding considerably to the cost. The reason is the lakeshore at the end of the airport property has been identified as having some historical significance. So the plan is to come up with an erosion-prevention strategy that won’t involve digging.

As for how to pay for whatever shoring up is chosen, Ferguson said there’s a new provincial grant program for flooding and drought that the project might qualify for.

State of the Lake

Councillor Mouallem, as he usually does, had a couple of things to plug. One was the MS 150 bike ride fundraiser by local resident Pat Potvin. To donate, Mouallem said, visit the MS 150 website and search for Potvin.

Mouallem’s other item was a reminder that the following day was the Muslim celebration of Eid al Fitr, which is the breaking of the fast celebration, at the end of Ramadan.

Councillor Shawn Gramlich’s contribution was to say something in memory of three of the people who lost their lives in the Humboldt bus crash of April 6, 2018. One was Slave Laker Connor Lukan, another was coach Darcy Haugan, who Gramlich – among other Slave Lakers – knew, and the other was Jaxon Joseph.

“Our thoughts are with them,” Gramlich said.