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Local municipalities relieved ID 349 funding released

local news

BONNYVILLE – Local municipalities are breathing a sigh of relief after the province announced they would be releasing the 2019 ID 349 funding.

Town Mayor Gene Sobolewski was pleased to see the announcement and offered his thanks to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

“We’ll be receiving about $7.5-million, which was very good news and very much appreciated as the town acknowledges that and is very gracious of the minister for doing that,” Sobolewski said during a town press conference on Wednesday, May 13.

The MD will be receiving roughly $2.2-million, the City of Cold Lake will see just over $16-million coming their way, and the Village of Glendon is getting about $1.4-million from the 2019 air weapons range money.

The municipalities received a base grant of $1-million each, with the remainder dollars being allocated based on a per capita basis. Glendon Mayor Laura Papirny was strongly in favour of this decision.

“This is fair and equitable for all of the municipalities and regions, and will allow for core infrastructure projects to be completed,” she expressed. “We’re going to be using this money for our water and sewer projects.”

The decision comes after the municipalities involved learned the province had brought the ID 349 agreement back to the table, and wouldn’t be releasing the money from last year until an agreement was reached.

It left local councils scrambling to find solutions to the sudden shortfall they had in their budgets that they had previously allocated ID 349 funding towards.

“A majority of the money is going to be utilized on covering the payment for the regional waterline,” noted Sobolewski. “There’s an anticipated cost overage that was based on some of the things that occurred during the design and some construction issues. For the most part, that’s where the large focus is going to be placed on that, but it’s quite a relief.”

Cold Lake council passed a minimalist budget due to the unknowns surrounding the funding, noting the funds being withheld was a significant blow to them.

“We’re just overall happy that the minister released the 2019 dollars because they were greatly needed,” exclaimed Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland.

In a letter to the town from Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu sent on May 8, Madu said he hoped the money would “help support your municipality during these challenging times and that council will place a priority on meaningful discussions, both internally and with neighbouring municipal councils, regarding long term solutions, which result in a new structure that benefits the entire region.”

According to MD Reeve Greg Sawchuk, the MD, town, city, and village will be at the table for future talks.

“We will once again try and work out something that’s longstanding,” he noted.

Local leaders are optimistic an agreement can be reached by all of the parties involved.

“We look forward to working with the others to get this moving forward on a long-term solution and the minister wants us to be bold and imaginative,” Copeland detailed. “The City of Cold Lake has always been willing to work as a region on a long-term solution so we’ll see what the other communities feel about doing.”

Papirny stated, “It’s absolutely imperative that we all work together to discuss this and reach a deal that will benefit and help us complete these giant infrastructure projects.”

In his letter, Madu stressed no future funding would be released until an agreement is reached.

“The allocation of 2019 funding is an interim solution for the distribution of local property tax revenue generated in ID 349. The interim solution is in recognition of the difficulty municipalities are facing while supporting businesses and residents in coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle