Municipal Affairs minister visits Barrhead

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An arbitrator’s binding decision on a recreational services agreement between the town and county is still pending.

That is what Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson told the Barrhead Leader shortly after a Nov. 1 meeting with community groups such as Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and Victim Services. Anderson visited Barrhead as a three municipality mini-tour which also included stops in Westlock and Morinville, to talk to various social agencies, and see first hand examples of collaboration between communities. In Barrhead, he was especially interested in seeing how the town and county collaborated to purchase the Barrhead Regional Fire Services’ aerial truck and the aquatic centre.

“I haven’t seen any of the arbitrator’s recommendations and I can’t really give you a specific date, but I expect the report will be coming across my desk soon,” he said.

In late March, Anderson ordered the two municipalities to enter into a binding arbitration process, after the two failed on multiple occasions, including a provincial mandated mediation, to come to a long-term recreational services agreement.

Anderson also said the government hopes that the recently revised Municipal Government Act (MGA) will help municipalities cooperate with each other by requiring them to come to Intermunicipal Collaborative Framework (ICF) agreements with every jurisdiction on its border on a wide variety of issues from shared water and sewage to joint land-use planning.

“It gives municipalities two years, starting from April 2018 to come to those agreements,” Anderson said.

To help create ICFs, Anderson said the province will ensure they have a wide variety of tools available.

“Municipal Affairs will make mediators available, if people need, or want them. We will have templates for them and we have given money to both the AAMDC [Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties] and the AUMA [Alberta Urban Municipalities Association] to help with that,” he said.

Anderson noted that Alberta Community Partnership Grants would also be available to help municipalities through the process.

“Our ministry will be involved with municipalities that need help, especially the smaller ones that might not have the capacity to do it,” he said.

When asked about what would happen if municipalities were not able to reach ICF’s within the two-year deadline, Anderson said, as minister, he could grant an extension. “The good news is that there are a lot of these agreements out there that can really be considered ICFs with a little bit of tweaking.”

However, if after all those steps the municipalities still can’t come to an agreement then they would be forced to pay for arbitration.

“No one wants that, because it costs a lot of money to go to arbitration, so we want to do everything we can before it gets to that point to work everything out,” Anderson said.

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