Over the past couple of weeks, council has discussed numerous issues, I want to take a few moments and get everyone caught up.
Construction – When we started this year’s construction season the initial cost came in $1-million over budget. We worked with the contractor to reduce the price, but by reducing the cost we gave an increased flexibility with timing.
Earlier this year we had said that construction would be completed by the end of October, I now will admit we have had to moved dates around for specific streets in order to optimize our schedule.
Good news is the majority of the concrete is done, and by the time you read this paving will have started and will potentially be done. With the exception of some landscaping, and sidewalks we still expect to be done by the end of this month (October).
Council understands this construction season has been frustrating. I think the end product will be worth it, and want to remind residents we were able to leverage all this money from the provincial government. So it has cost us nothing. CN will also be doing some repairs on their crossings through town which will result in detours. Keep an eye on the website, www.slavelake.ca, or facebook to stay informed or construction detours.
Utility Billing – Council has decided to look at a system where both the landowner along with the tenant names on utility bills. This would ensure the bills get paid, and administration has an option to transfer unpaid bills to tax rolls. It gives landlords the ability to stay in the loop on what is happening to tenant’s utility bills, and would alleviate the tax payers from paying the bill when residents don’t pay their utility bill.
Recycling/Garbage – Administration is working on a new proposal for the garbage pick-up contract, the current contract will expire at the end of February 2017. We will not be changing weekly garbage pick up. We are asking for pricing options on weekly recycling pick up, and pricing of bi-weekly recycling pick up to examine potential cost savings we can pass on to residents.
Improvement Levies – Council has decided against moving to the new proposed improvement levy charges. While the new proposal would have been better for planning, and ensured the work gets done, council heard the concerns of residents and voted against the proposed change.
Chickens - The majority of council voted for trying the idea of backyard chickens. Administration has begun to develop a year-long trial, with a small group of participants. This trial would have strict rules, including neighbors consent. Some members of council had reservations about how a trial would work, but council as a whole doesn’t believe we should just say no because there might be risk involved. As such we have decided to explore the possibility.
Off-site levies – We have decided we can’t get rid of off-site levies entirely. Getting rid of them would saddle future tax payers with too much of a burden. That being said, we know having them doesn’t always encourage growth. We have come up with a compromise to spur growth and keep costs low. When we receive an application for development of any vacant land, that has previously not been developed, an off-site levy will be required. However, any lot that already has or previously had a development on it, i.e. redeveloped lot, will now be exempt from paying an off-site levy. This hopefully creates a balance between growth and our responsibility to protect the taxpayer.
Town App – Our new website is up and running and getting some rave reviews. Community organizations can submit their upcoming events themselves on the website.
What I think is even more exciting is our new mobile application, that will be live shortly. More information on the mobile app will be communicated with a future blog and/or a video. Keep an eye on the website, www.slavelake.ca, or facebook and stay updated on the release of the new mobile application.
Budget - We are still working on the operating budget, and the discussions about the capital budget will begin in November. When we began our discussions on the operating budget there was a deficit of over $600,000. The goal this year is to try and operate the same as we did last year for the same price (i.e. you get the same service you got last year for roughly the same price). Last year we had administration cut discretionary spending by almost 5 per cent, so things were pretty lean this year. As we are getting close to finalizing the 2017 budget we are finding that getting to zero is going to be tough, it is still council’s goal though.