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Town Council News – February 14, 2024

Councillor Liz Krawiec absent.

Delegation

Jean-Paul Beauchesne, a member of the Swan Hills community, spoke with Council about FireSmarting activities in the community. After disclosing his employer and his status as an active member of the Swan Hills Fire Department, Beaushesne was very clear in stating that he was not representing either organization in his presentation and that his presentation reflected his personal thoughts and opinions.

Beaushesne spoke about the present efforts toward following FireSmart principles and guidelines in Swan Hills and how they might be improved. The 2024 wildfire season is almost here and could be even more alarming than the 2023 season due to the mild winter and lack of precipitation. Beaushesne highlighted the need for the community to take steps to FireSmart their homes, such as moving or removing flammable debris so that it does not act as fuel for a potential structural fire. He gave some ideas on ways to help motivate people to take these steps, such as ad campaigns and contests.

Council discussed the issue with Beaushesne, agreeing with his concerns. The Town is in discussion with its mutual aid partners, and Emergency Services has started preparing for wildfire season. There was discussion of possibly holding a town hall when more actions have been implemented, and response plans have been formalized.

Request For Decision (RFD)

Council reviewed 4 RFDs:

· Assessment Review Board: Council is required to appoint qualified members to sit on the Assessment Review Board (ARB), including a Chair and a Clerk. A list of individuals who have successfully completed the required provincially legislated training courses and are qualified to sit on ARBs was presented to Council. A motion was passed to appoint the listed individuals.

· Police Governance Engagement: The province has sent out a discussion document regarding the development of supporting regulations for the Police Amendment Act, 2022 (PAA). There is a survey open to municipalities to supply input regarding the Provincial Police Advisory Board (PPAB), which will represent communities under the Provincial Police Service Agreement. Swan Hills falls under this agreement. Council passed a motion to accept the discussion document as information and direct Administration to complete the survey on behalf of the Town of Swan Hills.

· RCMP Quarterly Report: The RCMP submitted their quarterly report covering October 1 to December 31, 2023. Some key takeaways include a significant decrease in assault cases, down from 10 incidents for this period in 2022 to 5 incidents in 2023. Of particular concern is a steep increase of Break & Enter incidents from 2 incidents during this period in 2022 to 10 incidents in 2023. Council passed a motion to accept this RCMP Quarterly Report as information.

· Public Sandbox: Community Matters has submitted a drawing of a community sandbox they would like to build for community members to obtain sand to help with traction during the winter. The sandbox would be large enough for a loader or skid steer to load the sand conveniently. It is anticipated that the sandbox could be built for $2,000 or less. Council passed a motion to approve Community Matters to make preparations to purchase or build a storage box for sand.

CAO Report

· The last cheque run from the 2023 budget has been completed, and the budget is now closed.

· The CAO and Treasurer attended a webinar on February 9 regarding the new Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) program that is replacing the MSI in 2024.

· The first meeting of the SHTC committee will be on February 22.

· Continued working on required year end reporting for the province.

· Staff is preparing financial information for the year-end audit/financial statement. The CAO will meet with the accountant this month to start the audit process.

· The CAO will attend a lunch meeting in Slave Lake on February 20 regarding potential regional emergency management partnerships. (Swan Hills, Big Lakes County, High Prairie, Slave Lake, and M.D. of Lesser Slave River will be attending).

· Training for the backup registry staff member has started.

· Some assessments for property assessed by the province have started to come in.

Operations And Infrastructure

· Operations is awaiting word from engineering regarding the restart of the Reservoir upgrade project.

· Replacement tanks for the Water Treatment Plant microfiltration system have been ordered. These will be installed by the manufacturer sometime this spring.

· PW has been working on snow removal training for new staff members.

· PW has created a laydown area at the transfer station to free up room in the yard. This area will hold culverts and infrequently used materials for storage.

· All Christmas lights have now been removed.

· Repairs to the Curling Club elevator have been completed. It is now back in service.

Protection Services

· There were 10 Fire Department calls for the month of January 2024.

· FireSmarting around the town will begin in February.

· The Swan Hills Fire Department is in the process of putting an order for a new Pumper Engine Vehicle out for tender.

· The Director of Emergency Management and Fire Department are preparing for wildfire season.

Reports

· Councilor Goebel reported that the Swan Hills Hospital Board is planning to hold a meet and greet to welcome the new staff at the hospital. It is unclear if this will be before or after Ramadan (March 10 – April 9).

· Councilor Watson reported attending an Inter-Agency Board meeting on February 7. The Swan Hills RCMP Detachment will be adding a Corporal position and a second Administration person.

· Councillors Watson, LaBerge, and Goebel attended the Fire Department’s Duelling Piano event on January 27. It was an excellent show.

· Councilor Laberge attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting on February 8. The Chamber presented gifts to Swan Hills’ two New Year’s babies for 2024.

Mayor Craig Wilson and Councillors Krawiec, Kuyek, and LaBerge attended the GROWTH Alberta Regional Socio-economic Partnership Workshop at the Eagle River Casino on February 5 - 6. It was well attended with representatives from municipalities, counties, First Nations communities, Metis Settlements, industry stakeholders, and school boards from as far away as Drayton Valley. The workshop was facilitated by Clearthink Group and focused on exploring common values and goals for the region to lay the groundwork to plan meaningful regional collaboration between these groups while leaving the door open for other organizations to join.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette