After five years in the making, Forestburg, as well as many other communities, have reluctantly chosen to discontinue their association with the regional amalgamation project.
As the managing partner of the last provincial grant received from Alberta Municipal Affairs for this project, the village is now responsible for preparing a negotiation report to be submitted to the Minister.
This was discussed during the Jan. 16, 2020 council meeting, however, council only passed a motion to approve the New West Opportunities Report indicating that the village would work with other interested municipalities on the amalgamation.
Since that point, administration asked council for further direction on how to proceed.
The responses to all municipalities at this time in regard to moving forward with the proposed amalgamation were the Village of Alliance, Town of Hardisty, Village of Heisler and Forestburg while the Town of Daysland, Flagstaff County and Town of Killam have all agreed to take no further action on this initiative.
“There are five interested parties but without Flagstaff County…” began Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Debra Moffat. “We can force them to enter into negotiations if we want them to but I think for me, one of the key things is that this was voluntary. And we always said right from the beginning that any municipality could bow out at any time.”
The Village of Lougheed supported a single-tier government with the condition that an acceptable financial commitment be made by the province by March 31, 2020.
Administration has now been informed that as a condition of the last grant received for the regional amalgamation project a final negotiation report must be prepared and submitted to the Minister.
With Forestburg’s final decision, administration will submit a letter to all of the above mentioned parties as well as municipal affairs as well as other interested parties like the community school district, hospitals, etc.
Dep. Mayor Bob Coutts was a driving force behind the project, wanting to see it come to fruition with long term goals of sustaining the region financially in the long-term.
“I still think he put his heart and soul into this effort for that but it is now, I believe, a dead issue,” said Mayor Blaise Young.
“It would have been nice to have seen it through a little bit further. [I’m] Kind of sad to be honest with you,” Coun. Devon McNab.
In the past, Forestburg and Daysland got a large wealth of feedback from county and municipal residents about interest levels and many were said to be interested in learning more about this project.
But, according to Dep. Mayor Coutts, some county councillors were not willing to work with anyone on this. CAO Moffat did mention that in the voting for Flagstaff’s stance on this project, it was a split vote amongst members to discontinue.
“Some members on council say there is absolutely no interest from any of the county residents on this and that’s just his little circle of friends. But statistically, the people that we surveyed prior to it, was 50 per cent of the people were interested and wanted more information. It was worth looking at.
“I think from the county’s standpoint, for them, they got hung up on the – their stumbling block was that there was no financial benefit directly [for them].”
“Not everyone has a positive attitude like you, Bob,” said Coun. Elaine Fossen.
Overall, council decided to cut their losses and said, “We learned a lot about ourselves and [got] a lot of pretty good information.”