Cold Lake City Council is disappointed that inaccurate information continues to circulate about the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range and the City of Cold Lake’s sustainability agreement with the Provincial Government.
“We were very disappointed when we read Town of Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski’s letter to the editor published this week,” City of Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said. “We did not know about the letter and we could have corrected several important errors that were stated, and published, as fact.”
Copeland noted that the largest concern was the notion that the agreement was coming to an end. In fact, it is only the agreement’s five-year transition period, after which the balance of revenue from ID 349 will continue to come to the City of Cold Lake, which is ending.
“This agreement was made for the sustainability of the City of Cold Lake and the viability of CFB Cold Lake and 4 Wing,” Copeland said. “It is not a five-year agreement: We never would have signed an agreement that lasted only five years. We started to work on this with the Provincial Government after regional talks and provincially mandated mediation failed to address the City’s sustainability. Cold Lake is a strong, sustainable and dynamic municipality because of the agreement we reached with the Province.”
The 2009, provincially mandated mediation included the City of Cold Lake, the Municipal District of Bonnyville, the Town of Bonnyville and the Village of Glendon. During the mediation sessions, the City of Cold Lake was informed that, in the other communities’ views, no sustainability issues existed in the region. The three communities signed a nine-year deal which Cold Lake rejected, and they encouraged the City to work with the Provincial Government on its sustainability issues.
“Those were not fun times for the City of Cold Lake or our council,” Copeland said. “We were the only community in the region who identified a sustainability issue and we had a number of accusations thrown at us as a result. We had our names dragged through the mud, but we were ultimately cleared by a very intensive municipal inspection that found our council and administration had been acting in the best interest of our residents.”
After the municipal inspection was presented by Municipal Inspector George Cuff in May 2010, Cold Lake City Council rejected the Inspector’s recommendation that the City raise taxes in an attempt to reach sustainability. The City of Cold Lake had already passed a series of aggressive tax hikes: 13.7% in 2005; 9.8% in 2006; 30.5% in 2007; and 8.6% in 2008. Council felt that further tax increases of the same magnitude could not be borne by the residents of Cold Lake.
“We had worked very hard to be sustainable and our residents shouldered very significant tax increases. We had also been attacked by our neighbours for raising sustainability issues, but we took their advice and began to work with the Provincial Government,” Copeland said. “We continued to work hard for the people of Cold Lake, and the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range agreement was the ultimate result. The City’s sustainability depends on this agreement – which included the cooperation of four municipalities. When you take a serious look at the work and cooperation that went into the present agreement, the scope of it is unprecedented.”
This week’s letter to the editor also refers to a committee – the “regional opportunities committee” – which the City of Cold Lake neither belongs to nor recognizes.
“Several other communities seem to have struck a committee that can only see one opportunity in this region: To take what one of their neighbours has,” Copeland said. “We have always known that the opportunities for collaboration in this region are greater than that. That’s why when mediation failed we sought our own deal, but have continued to remain open to true regional cooperation, where every municipality is viewed as an equal.”
Copeland added that the City has always been in favour of regional assessment pooling, a regional sustainability formula or regional government – but that all municipalities in the region would need to be a part of the solution. Notably, the MD of Bonnyville’s assessment is wholly left out by the Town of Bonnyville’s regional opportunities committee.
“We have always championed true regional cooperation and we always will. In that spirit, we will only consider pooling our assessment if every municipality in the region is at the table,” Copeland said. “That includes the MD of Bonnyville. Any solution in this region that disregards the MD of Bonnyville’s pool of assessment and focuses on taking only from the City of Cold Lake is patently unfair and will be ineffective. The town’s suggestion that assessment be taken from the City of Cold Lake and given to the MD of Bonnyville – a municipality with one of the richest pools of assessment in Alberta – does not meet our smell test for serious cooperation.”
City of Cold Lake Council continues to work with the Government of Alberta on the transition of ID 349 as per the sustainability agreement signed in 2011. Council has also recognized a recent pledge from the Provincial Government to bring forward legislation that would facilitate modernizing regional partnerships between municipalities.
“Our Provincial Government has signaled a new approach to municipal cooperation and we look forward to seeing the framework they bring forward,” Copeland said. “We expect that it will incentivize true regional partnerships, something Cold Lake has always championed. We also expect that having a committee of three communities eyeing a fourth community’s assessment will fall far short of our Province’s vision for regional cooperation.”
*Press Release from the City of Cold Lake