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Outlook town council - Snow removal topic heavily debated

Highlights from the January 25 meeting.
2020 Town Sign

OUTLOOK - The town council of Outlook met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday night, January 25. Present was all of Council; Bob Stephenson, Justin Turton, Sharon Bruce, Kyle McLeod, Ryan Husband, and Kevin Grotheim, as well as Mayor Maureen Weiterman and Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Trew.

CAO Report

By Kevin Trew
Chief Administrative Officer

Human Resources:

Our current staffing complement continues to be working well with many of our newest permanent staff successfully completing their three month probationary periods.

The first months of work often come with learning curves and training, we have taken the opportunity to ensure many of our staff have the proper training to do their jobs properly with a few updates and refreshers offered to existing staff while we are at it.

Our assistant CAO, Rachel, is off for a month on Short Term Disability, as she had surgery, we wish her well and await her return in mid February.

Council and many executive team members along with the administration staff recently completed the Johnson Shoyoma Governance Training – I am excited to see those using MS Gov in their email signatures now – I am confident that everyone learned something and that the training was worthwhile, it was originally my vision that we would take it as one group only but we were pretty much the majority of the class so it was essentially close to the same – I found our team dominated discussion most days.

Policy and Procedural Items:

We were very excited to complete the 2023 operations budget in December as well as the updated 10 year capital plan; this was a real group effort with all of the Executive Team participating to the fullest extent, I am confident that we have a great team that will also watch their budget numbers even more closely; it was imperative that we budget for a 0% in overall tax levy while accommodating cost of living increases. I am proud to say we have done so, we are anxiously looking forward to the first three months of 2023 where we will see how we are doing and see what government provided funds will come with them to help us keep taxes at a minimum when it comes time to levy them in May.

Our first annual report was released in November and it is available to anyone on our website, we have copies available in the office as well.

The strategic plan copies are available on the website as well as the first strategic plan report card which was completed in December of 2022. We still have a lot of work and we are hoping to incorporate more of the public’s input into the report card in 2023.

Year End and Audit – we are working at having a final year end statement for Council as well as an audited statement – once the accrual invoices stop coming in we should be able to make our final adjustments to present a more accurate statement for Council. Once we have that, we will discuss setting aside reserves for much needed capital projects.

Successes this Month:

Snow moving – Our team has been great at initial response to all of the various snowfall events we experienced in December, 2022 – there has been quite a learning curve with what to do with all the snow for public and our team; while we are working out the kinks as we go along, we are also up to the challenge.

Community Events – what a thrill it was to participate in the 2022 Winter Wonderland in the park and as a sponsor for the events at the Civic Centre put on by Equinox Theatre Group – these events are putting Outlook on the map attracting people from the region – it is our great privilege to sponsor these events and many more – not forgetting that Team Outlook also supported Outlook Amateur Sports New Year’s Event and the Junior B Hockey game hosted in early January – we are looking forward to sponsorship of the Outlook Playschool Trade Show coming up as well.

Learning Opportunities/Capacity Development:

Snow REMOVAL – It became readily apparent to us that some awareness pieces are missing as far as the priority areas for snow removal, the reasonable and affordable levels of service the Town is able to deliver in due time as well as the expectations of the public and property owners when it comes to clearing and removing snow. We are working on a solid policy for Council to consider and we will be looking for constructive feedback. Ultimately, we provide a snow dump for property owners and the municipality to move snow off property behind the Laestadian Church off of 1st Avenue and Hall Street and we are looking to provide an even more permanent location in future years, we need to use it more and encourage others to do likewise.

6% Discount on Municipal Tax Prepayments – we are offering this again this year for pre-payments made prior to March 31. The 2022 program was very successful, and we continue to develop advertising so that awareness is throughout the community. We are not allowed to give discounts on the education portion of the property taxes levied by the Province. Taxes will not be levied until May, so there will likely be a small sum owing when taxpayers get their tax notices even if they do make pre-payments.

Pre-Authorized Debit payments – we have been offering this for a year now and the uptake has not been what we expected – we accept payments monthly or quarterly for taxes, utilities or regular accounts receivable items; we expect to no longer accept post-dated cheques very soon so we are trying to encourage those making regular payments to seek out the opportunity to work with the PAD option.

Current Unfinished Projects:

Highway Water, Sewer and Storm Water Replacement – The work started in the fall and we expect the contractor to return in the spring to complete the majority of the work over the spring and summer; phase 2 of the project should go to tender this winter with no date set in stone at this time.

Storm Water Outfalls rehabilitation will be completed in spring 2023 – Accurate HD is the chosen contractor. We will have a one year warrantee on the vegetation so spring work is preferred to fall.

Landfill Decommissioning of Old Cell – The source material has been secured – the tender is not out yet, but will be soon.

Raw Water Intake/ Water Treatment Plant Upgrade Project – We had some very good success in the late fall with setting up test wells on both the east and west sides of the Saskatchewan River. The water supply is NOT from an aquifer, it is river water induced from below the river bottom; this is a sustainable and cheapest option unlike the current raw water intake; the engineers are looking to drafting design elements for the next bit; we are expecting a report on the work completed before Christmas by the next meeting of Council in early February. Our engineer is also working at the design of the Water Treatment Plant Upgrades.

Subdivisions Projects:

Railway Commercial/Industrial – we have had some interest in the lots and we are confidentially working with new business development in Outlook.

Highway Commercial – Associated Engineering continues to contract the design aspect and Danny Gray is working on the planning aspect with connections being made with CP Rail to discuss the storm retention pond.

Residential – Nothing new to report at this time. The planner is continuing work to this regard, striving to make contacts with developers that may be interested in the College South subdivision.

New Zoning Bylaw – Urban Systems was at our open house and will be collecting more information before the first reading of the new zoning bylaw expected this winter.

Future Projects:

We still await another call for path development to include an application for the Skytrail Bridge Rehabilitation, we have been in contact with the Trans Canada Trail and with some local champions of the Skytrail bridge, hoping to invite the public to an open house meeting this winter with regards to the bridge with Associated Engineering and PCL in attendance.

The lot tenders (5 residential, 1 ag) have kept me fairly busy for the past couple of weeks answering questions of the public, it will be interesting to see if bids come forth – development is a large part of the CAO job in Outlook and for that I am grateful, it truly is an honour to sell the advantages of locating in our community!

Communications Requiring Action or Decision

Council heard from Administrator Trew about plans regarding the upcoming Prairie Festival in Outlook at the end of May, with this being the second edition of the event. The Town received a letter from the Outlook & District Heritage Museum requesting sponsorship of the event, which will once again feature food trucks on-site, as well as an outdoor market, live demonstrations, a show n' shine car show, a street dance, and an online 50/50 draw that will be running throughout the weekend.

As well, the hope is that there will be musical entertainment in the Bounty Theatre hall, should the venue be at a point where it can be used.

The Museum board is looking to raise $10,000 in advance sponsorship of the event, which in itself is being geared to be a fundraiser for both the museum and the continued renovations to the Bounty Theatre.

The Prairie Festival is seeking sponsorship at the following levels: $6,000 for title sponsorship, $2,500 for day sponsorship over Friday, Saturday or Sunday, $1,500 for event sponsorship for any of the activities taking place over the weekend, a $500 general donation, or in-kind sponsorship providing volunteers for any work to be carried out during the weekend.

For the previous events, both the Harvest Festival in 2021 and the first edition of the Prairie Festival last May, the Town was an in-kind sponsor.

As such, Councillor Bruce made the motion to continue having the Town of Outlook act as an in-kind sponsor for the event, and the motion was carried.

Unfinished Business

Council next discussed the Town's proposed snow moving & removal policy. Administrator Trew explained that snow moving would be carried out in different phases, first putting focus on priority areas such as Saskatchewan Avenue and Franklin Street and carrying on from there.

Councillor Grotheim took issue with the policy's wording of potentially having to wait up to eight days to address key areas that have been inundated with snow, responding that something like 48 hours (two days) would be more preferable. Councillor McLeod added that Saskatchewan Avenue is a street that needs attention very quickly in the event of significant snowfall.

Administrator Trew said that choosing to have snow removal within up to 48 hours would mean overtime pay and premium rates for workers, and argued that perhaps two business days would be more appropriate as eight business days might not be ideal. The big question in the room was if the Town would be willing to pay premium and overtime rates for something that might turn out to be minimal work that didn't necessarily need to be carried out so quickly.

As the topic seemed to dart around the room amongst councillors, Mayor Weiterman banged her gavel, reining in the discussion as all the "what if?" talk was getting out of hand.

Councillor Stephenson said that the province should chip in when and where it's needed, specifically along Saskatchewan Avenue that eventually turns into Highway 15 heading east. Such assistance from the government would help lessen the impact to local taxpayers, he said.

Council agreed to make the waiting period four business days, and Administrator Trew said he would also reach out to the province and speak to town staff.

New Business

Councillor McLeod recused himself from the room before a non-arm's length payment was carried and made to KTM Exteriors.

The Town received a letter from the WaterWolf district planning commission with its financials attached. The organization was looking for approval of its 2023 budget, and the topic will come back to Council at a future meeting.

Council discussed a land matter in-camera to close the meeting.

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