By COLLIN GALLANT on October 17, 2020.
A new intermunicipal collaboration committee will now move forward on common problems and potential joint service delivery in Medicine Hat, Redcliff and Cypress County.
The agreement, terms and general work plan were finalized Friday at a ceremonial signing at Cypress County offices in Dunmore.
Officials said that in a time strain on municipal budgets, the potential to share costs, avoid duplication or better co-ordinate projects will be needed.
“In this environment, everybody needs to look harder at synergies, and any time you can share with your neighbour, that’s good for everybody,” said Redcliff Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick. “This isn’t a new or novel approach. It should have always been.”
The creation of a committee comprised of elected officials from all three municipalities is the formalization of work that began in 2017.
At that time a steering committee of administrators and elected officials began working on a province mandate that all municipalities with a shared boundary needed to discuss potential collaboration in six areas.
Those include transportation, water, solid waste, emergency services and recreation, plus any services the municipalities deemed of common benefit to residents.
Those same groups for the scope of the Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework were agreed to by all three local councils last March, and the committee will begin tackling issues on a general work plan.
The first order of business will be to work out a potential system of cost sharing or revenue sharing, but will also see at some point an overarching recreation master plan and transportation projects.
That could see potential partnerships formed between two or three members in the future, said Medicine Hat Coun. Julie Friesen.
“If one (partner) is talking about developing a new recreational facility, we should be talking about that,” said Friesen, a member of the steering committee. “It might be better built together in a place (all residents) could access it. Would we share costs? Would we share revenue?
“This (agreement) is the legs and backbone of that work.”
All three councils approved the structure at meetings this month, and the members of the committee will be determined at respective organizational meetings later in October.
It will meet, at minimum, quarterly throughout the year.
The framework creates a work list of potential agreement areas, allows for partnerships of either two or all three municipal members, and lays out a dispute resolution process.
The first order of work is to outline a potential cost-sharing and revenue-sharing framework that in the past has proved contentious.
Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston has often complained that regional residents access city services such as rec facilities and demand road upgrades, but don’t contribute to the city’s tax revenue.
Since 2018, Cypress County expanded a recreation grant program previously extended to Redcliff to include Medicine Hat.
As well the city and county have renewed a fire services agreement and a cost-share plan for upgrades to S. Boundary Road, which is owned by the city, but needed by county residents in the Hamlet of Desert Blume.
“It could have been a lot smoother at the start if a (framework) like this had been in place,” she said.
Potential new agreements will be examined for sewer and waste water and potable water, transportation and economic development.
The parties’ Intermunicipal Development Plan that also was approved last spring includes a potential industrial park on county lands northwest or Redcliff that would be jointly developed by all three.
County Coun. Robin Kurpjuweit said the pact is a “philosophical change” to how the three municipalities relate to each other.
“There are opportunities where we can really collaborate,” he said. “We know we’re going to be dealing with a lot of downloading of responsibilities onto municipalities … This committee can help us ask how can we come up with solutions on a regional level, rather than solving things on our own.”