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Bonnyville should share tax assessment from weapons range: Isley

Tax assessment from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range should be split among the four regional municipalities, says Bonnyville Mayor Ernie Isley.

Tax assessment from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range should be split among the four regional municipalities, says Bonnyville Mayor Ernie Isley.

In a letter he sent to the province's Ministry of Municipal Affairs last week, Isley again made a proposal he believes is fair to everyone involved.

Isley re-proposed a solution he put forward during the government imposed mediation in 2009, which would see the City of Cold Lake, the Town and MD of Bonnyville, and Glendon get a cut of the estimated $10 million in assessment from the bombing range, based on the residency of employees and service workers on the range.

In return, the mayor proposes transferring to Lac La Biche County the lucrative Conklin and Christina Lake areas from Wood Buffalo, and offering a grant-in-lieu of assessment to Wood Buffalo until new assessment becomes available.

The proposal failed to proceed during mediation in part because the minister of municipal affairs of the time, Ray Danyluk, “was adamant that the issue not be discussed,” according to Isley.

Danyluk favoured his own constituency above the interests of the region as a whole, said Isley, in a phone interview.

Isely also said the MD of Bonnyville was hesitant to get in a conflict with Lac La Biche county, a fellow rural municipality, and the fact the City of Cold Lake wanted all of the assessment, were reasons the proposal died.

“I believe a fair analysis of the impact of the Air Weapons Range on the region would show that it impacts Bonnyville and the immediate surrounding area just as much as it impacts the City of Cold Lake,” Isley said.

Fire services provided to the range from the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority affect the municipality, according to the mayor. Under agreements with Imperial and CNRL, Bonnyville provides fire protection services to operations on the range.

Cenovus has an agreement with the small fire department in Rich Lake in Lac La Biche County, but Bonnyville would be called in for backup assistance if needed as part of an agreement.

Contract ambulances deliver people to the south gate, where they are picked up by Bonnyville ambulances most of the time when needed, Isely said.

A large volume of human sewage from Cenovus' camps ends up at Bonnyville's lagoon, Isely added.

“Bonnyville continues to cope, with difficulty at times,” he said in the letter. The Town “scrounges” for provincial and federal grant dollars to deal with infrastructure needs, he wrote.

Isley estimates Bonnyville's infrastructure deficit to be around $150 million. Bonnyville's infrastructure is older than Cold Lake south and 4 Wing's infrastructure, he said, adding the Town fights with replacing old cast iron waterlines on a long-term program.

Isley said statistics show many employees on the range live in Bonnyville, and the majority of the service sector on the range live in Bonnyville.

“I'd say there is more worker impact into the Bonnyville community than there is into the Cold Lake community.”

The funding formula should also reflect the MD of Bonnyville's role in providing all of the road access to the range, he said.

Although the proposal calls for changing municipal boundaries, Isely's first preference would be to address regional pressures through the oilsands secretariat and a royalty sharing formula.

The royalty sharing solution could be used to address similar infrastructure concerns in other parts of the province, said Isley.

Isely predicted not much would happen with proposals until the conclusion of the Progressive Conservative leadership race.