As the spokesperson for the elected officials of the MD, my role is to keep people informed about what we’re doing to keep our rugged-and-real region safe, healthy and prosperous. Whether I’m talking to a landowner about road allowances or championing our collective concerns to the province, my priority is the well-being of our municipality and the people who reside within it. The Reeve's Report is a benchmark of our growth and adaptation as a municipality, and of Council's steadfast commitment to the communities it has the honour of stewarding.
As much as I enjoy talking, I find listening to be a more productive activity. Whether you chat with us on Facebook, respond to our online surveys or attend a Council meeting that matters to you, make no mistake: we are listening intently, and your voice matters.
Collective Resources and Common Goals for 2019
As we forge ahead into the new year, I’d like to acknowledge my fellow Councillors for their steady hand on the MD helm. A mixture of new members and seasoned vets, I believe we have jelled as a team and generally bring cooperative attitudes to the Council table. While our priorities may differ as individual Councillors, we are all marching to the same drum beat of fiscal responsibility. Both Council and staff continue to seek efficient and effective ways of doing business while providing consistent levels of service to ratepayers. In this spirit, I’d like to lay out some of Council’s projects, priorities and emerging issues for the year ahead.
In this continued environment of sluggish economy, the MD has experienced both a drop in municipal tax revenues and an increase in costs in many areas. As always, I am thankful for the resourcefulness and diligence of MD staff as they continue to deliver the best possible services to ratepayers at cost levels we can justify. I would also like to acknowledge departed Director of Finance Jason Warawa for his dedicated service and the many improvements he made to the MD’s Finance department.
One unwelcome surprise in the summer of 2018 was the discovery of water damage during scheduled maintenance to the main administration building. What was planned as a simple re-insulation project turned into a lengthier and costlier undertaking that required staff to relocate to the maintenance shop & trailer, as well as the Visitor Information Centre, for several months. I’d like to thank MD staff and residents alike for their patience and understanding during this unforeseen disruption.
Land use bylaws are in place to help protect our citizens when planning for their futures. Issues surrounding land use continue to be a primary focus for Council; we are beginning to see what must be done in order to make them easier to understand and contend with. Our ultimate goal is to clarify the MD’s land use bylaws to facilitate development in the region, and to further position Lesser Slave River as an appealing destination to enjoy life, raise families and conduct business.
We plan to aggressively deal with road infrastructure over the coming months. In 2017, Council approved increasing the annual re-gravelling program by an additional 50% over the Municipal Servicing Standard to improve and protect the road travelling surface structure. In 2019, all the roads in the Municipality will have received the first round of this treatment, along with initial stages of the MD’s strategy to perform an extensive shoulder pull program. We anticipate greater up-front costs as a result of these activities, but this type of proactive maintenance will provide savings in the long run. The issue of bridge culvert replacements continues to frustrate Council, primarily due to Alberta Environment regulations and permitting that increase engineering design specifications at a substantial cost. In addition, we spend months – even years – simply awaiting provincial approvals for time-sensitive projects. Clearly, the Provincial Government must improve its efficiency and effectiveness to reduce lead time, complexity and cost to projects.
Based on the recent changes to the Municipal Government Act, all municipalities with common boundaries must enter into Intermunicipal Development Plans (IDPs) and Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (ICFs). IDPs provide a mechanism for determining how adjacent municipalities work together; how to approach development of joint lands; and how best to coordinate parks, recreation, transportation, water, services and utilities across boundaries. ICFs help neighbouring municipalities provide for the integrated and strategic planning, delivery and funding of intermunicipal services. They are designed to help neighbouring municipalities steward taxpayer resources efficiently while minimizing duplicated effort wherever possible.
Even without such agreements in place, we have historically sought productive relationships with our municipal neighbours – especially the Town of Slave Lake and Sawridge First Nation. I believe we all agree that a shared regional view is far more productive than a siloed approach, and I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our neighbours to the net benefit of all.
As always, I’d like to acknowledge Lesser Slave River staff for their hard work over the past year. Your commitment to stewarding MD resources and serving ratepayers each day is truly commendable. Thank you as well to those across our communities for your input and support. I encourage you to connect with MD Council or staff, or even take in a Council meeting when time permits. Take part in the conversation and help our great municipality prosper.