Local municipalities have a better idea of what’s expected of the Regional Partnership Committee.
Last week, the six communities included received a letter from Alberta Municipal Affairs detailing their draft terms of reference for the Regional Partnership Committee, who will be responsible for deciding where $6-million in regional funding from the ID 349 agreement is going to go.
The Town and MD of Bonnyville, City of Cold Lake, Village of Glendon, Elizabeth Métis Settlement, and the Fishing Lake Métis Settlement will all be involved in the selection process.
Town of Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski described the announcement as “a good start.”
“It gives us a foundation to start moving forward and gives us some direction in terms of what expectations are,” he expressed.
Municipal Affairs has given the committee three main functions. They will be responsible for bringing forward ideas for both capital and operating projects on behalf of their community, act as a liaise between the committee and the participating councils through communication, and provide recommendations to the Minister of Municipal Affairs regarding the allocation of the $6-million pool of funding.
The Regional Partnership Committee will be made-up of two tiers. The first will include municipal representatives who will decide which projects to submit to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for approval, while the other involves Municipal Affairs and one representative from each of the six municipalities.
This group will take care of administrative duties.
In order for a project to be approved by Municipal Affairs, the committee must come to a consensus.
“The biggest thing about this regional collaboration is going to be able to find a project that fits everybody’s needs. Between all of the players, there are many diverse needs,” MD of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuk said. “I’m thinking we’re going to have to do a bit of horse trading in order to get some projects put forward and supported by the group.”
Sobolewski agreed, “I think the biggest barriers are some of the tensions of the past. I think we’re all going to be grown ups in the room. It’s going to be our jobs, and it’s incumbent on us, to break down some of the barriers and literally move forward in the intent and spirit that’s required. It’s going to be a regional partnership. What’s at stake is being able to accomplish projects and being able to utilize the funding that’s available to us to accomplish regional projects.”
If the committee fails to come to an agreement, the funding will be set aside until consensus is made.
City of Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland believes it will be important for municipalities involved to keep the definition of regional in mind when discussing projects.
“I think we need to try to understand what the word regional means. It’s something that will benefit more than one community, that’s when it gets into the realm of regional. I think that’s what the Minister of Municipal Affairs is trying to do with the $6-million for this year,” he said.
Although they agree to the terms overall, Cold Lake was “a bit puzzled” over the confidentiality aspect.
The draft terms have included a confidentiality clause, where committee meetings and materials aren’t allowed to be shared unless Municipal Affairs indicates otherwise.
Copeland said, “We’re not too sure why it’s such a big secret to discuss regional projects. But other than that, I don’t think there’s anything too alarming,”
For Village of Glendon Mayor Laura Papirny, the draft terms are a good framework to get started.
“The system will promote regional cooperation, and I think it will definitely be beneficial to all communities involved,” she said. “We will have to cooperate and come up with a plan that’s fair to everyone.”
She added, “It’s an exciting opportunity, especially for the Village of Glendon. Being a smaller municipality, we don’t have the funding opportunities some of the bigger municipalities have, so this is going to be greatly beneficial.”
Sobolewski is pleased with the draft terms of reference for the committee so far, but feels the work is far from over.
“I think the terms of reference are a good start. I think there are some details that need to be worked out by the partnership,” noted Sobolewski. “I’m happy with the general direction. I think there’s some work to do, but now is the time to start rolling up the sleeves and getting to work.”
He added, “I’m cautiously optimistic. The minister is giving us our direction and now it will be incumbent upon us to take those directions and move forward.”