Municipal amalgamation pitched
Tuesday, Dec 06, 2016 06:00 am
The Sundre and District Chamber of Commerce executive has asked the province to consider amalgamating the Town of Sundre with a portion of Mountain View County.
“We’re after shock value here,” said chamber president Mike Beukeboom. “It will seem very heavy-handed but it’s a response that needs attention now.”
Beukeboom says at times over the last several decades the county and town’s tumultuous relationship “has been downright frustrating and even dysfunctional” causing stalled projects and concern for future growth.
He points to a several-year dispute over a cost-sharing payment for the extension of water and wastewater services to Sundre’s east side as an example.
By creating “some pressure from above” Beukeboom said he hopes to make it “very, very clear that something has to change.”
The province has responded by saying amalgamations aren’t discussed with chambers of commerce, but rather with municipalities.
Both Mountain View County and Sundre officials were notified of the action being taken prior to the request being sent to Municipal Affairs on Oct. 7, said Beukeboom.
He also addressed the issue again during a Sundre council meeting Nov. 7 and is scheduled to talk to Mountain View County’s policies and priorities committee this week.
The proposal is to amalgamate Sundre with that portion of Mountain View County that is in the town’s trade area -- roughly defined as the current Clearwater County boundary to the west and north, east to Highway 766 and south to Elkton Road, with a population of roughly 7,600 people.
In doing so, Beukeboom said Sundre and area would have 100 per cent of its tax base and the efficiencies of one council.
The Greater Sundre and Area Municipality, as Beukeboom coined it, would be similar in structure to R.M. of Wood Buffalo, an amalgamation of the City of Fort McMurray and Improvement District No. 143 in 1995.
“I think it’s a logistical discussion to take place,” the chamber president said.
He admitted there have been successful partnerships between the two municipalities on projects over the years pointing to the recent 10th Street reconstruction and the construction of the new seniors’ facility.
“But that’s always the exception to the rule when we look at the long term,” he added. “We feel it’s come to a head.”
Discussions between chamber officials and town and county officials have been held over the past four or five months to a lukewarm response, he said.
“What we’re asking everyone to understand is that this really matters. We can’t spend another 40 years (where) disagreements are the norm.”
He has hopes that a new long-term inter-municipal agreement that is currently being brokered between the two municipalities will benefit Sundre better than the existing agreement.
A facilitator is helping to lead discussions between the town and county as they work on a draft Inter-Municipal Collaboration Initiative to replace the current Memorandum of Understanding that expires this year.