Public consultation begins for regional governance study
By Brittany Willsie
On the evening of Feb. 17, community members could join a Regional Governance Study live session virtually, which included a presentation and an opportunity to ask questions.
The live session is a part of the public engagement period, which began Feb. 15, and includes a virtual open house and an online survey.
As the purpose of the study is to determine the most effective and efficient government structure for the region, feedback from residents of Clearwater County, the Town of Rocky Mountain House and the Village of Caroline is an important step.
Both the open house and survey are available to the public until March 10.
During the live session presentation, the study process was discussed, along with the various options that will be explored and which areas each of those options would affect.
Four options for regional governance were presented: maintain status quo, amalgamation of all three municipalities, amalgamation of two of the municipalities and dissolution of the village.
During the live session, Jeff Bellinger, of Nichols Applied Management, presented that the most likely scenario for amalgamating two of the three municipalities, would be between the county and village, with the town maintaining its current status.
Benefits of amalgamation
In Alberta, the most recent amalgamation between municipalities was in 2007 between the Town of Lac La Biche and Lakeland County.
Lac La Biche County, as it is now known, was the result of the former town and smaller hamlets seeking more opportunities for infrastructure and finance.
Dave Phillips is the president of the Lac La Biche and District Chamber of Commerce. He said the main motive for amalgamating the town and county was that the town was struggling financially, but there have been many benefits since 2007.
Although the municipal boundaries between the town and county are non-existent, three of the nine councillor positions are held by those living within the former town boundary.
As Phillips formerly held a position on Lac La Biche County Council for one four-year term, he is well-vested in the municipality’s history and functionality.
“I just absolutely think it’s the way to go in areas where there’s a bunch of small communities that have small budgets,” said Phillips. “I remember sitting, talking with a councillor and their entire budget for the year was a little bit over $2 million, and they had just did a $2 million upgrade to their water and sewer system, so they had to do the debentures for 100 per cent of what their budget was.”
Now, thanks to the amalgamation, funds support infrastructure in the entire community and residents get to enjoy more services.
“Economic wise, it was a great thing for the people that live in the town and the businesses that are centred there. It also gave us the ability to expand industrial subdivision up to two and five kilometres away from the town centre and have water and sewer running to those,” Phillips explained.
Water and sewer infrastructure was also added to a lot of rural subdivisions, expanding hamlet boundaries.
In terms of recreation, many services have been added since 2007. The community now enjoys a 250,000 square foot recreation facility.