Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland, spoke of the ID-349 Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) funding at Thursday’s Open House and how he’s all in for other municipalities to have a piece of the funding – but they need to be all in too. Mayor Copeland says regionalization is the “Alberta solution” and worked for Lac La Biche County, Strathcona County and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Copeland believes it is the solution that’ll work best to ensure the sustainability of all the municipalities; including Bonnyville and Glendon.
“We’ve (the City) has always been open with the Province,” before the air weapons deal and now, says Copeland, “if [other municipalities] want to go all in, our Council is ready to go all in. Bring the assessment from the range, bring everybody’s elses assessment in, (what’s being taxed). Let’s go one big County or two Counties, like they did in Lac La Biche.”
The urban and rural communities coming together and making wise choices on spending the tax payers dollars. – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake
Equalization per Capita
- City of Cold Lake $182, 738.06 + ID-349 $149,456.63 = $332,194.69
- Municipal District of Bonnyville $431,787.04
- Town of Bonnyville $182,967.38
- Village of Glendon $97,781.01
*Figures provided by City of Cold Lake
“The key number is the $182,738.06, that’s how much a (Cold Lake) resident is worth; per capita,” explains the Mayor. “With the ID-349 you see we jump up to $332,194.69.” Mayor Copeland says looking at the figures, “there definitely is an imbalance, we agree.” Mayor Copeland suggests that all four municipalities need to start talking about this imbalance, “instead of only focusing on [ID-349] as the only pool in the neighbourhood to come get money. Why not look at our friends who are sitting at $431 thousand?”
“If we all came together and looked at a regional government solution, and you looked at assessment from industry, downtown commercial, and residential, you’d be looking at, on average $336,900.50 per person,” Mayor Copeland believes that all the municipalities would best benefit from regionalization.
Regional Government, We’re all in! – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake
The biggest argument against regionalization might be, how do the smaller municipalities needs get addressed? Mayor Copeland says the body of Council would be responsible to make those reviews and create policies on servicing. Council would be made up of representatives from each municipality/region, to help ensure the residents’ needs are being addressed.
“This is a made in Alberta solution. We have three great examples: Lac La Biche County, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Strathcona County,” Mayor Copeland urges people to google and research those municipalities to see how regionalization benefited the smaller centres, as much as, the larger. “They’re all getting the same level of service and that’s what happens with a regional government leadership.”
Mayor Copeland gave the room a background into the ID-349 deal. With the hope of the public better understanding the circumstances that went into the deal; as well as, the intent of the deal.
“Significant, in my opinion, is that myself, Kevin (Nagoya CAO), and some of the Councillors, had been on a long journey, with the backing of residents, the Chamber of Commerce and industry, when we were working with the Province,” Copeland explains that the City displayed to the Province that even by raising municipal taxes, in 2007 by over 40 percent, “just wasn’t giving us the amount of money that we needed to build out our infrastructure deficit.”
The City went to extremes such as voting to dissolve, which in turn had the Province send a municipal inspector. “We were trying to make a motion at the time to dissolve into the MD of Bonnyville,” Copeland says the inspection was, “probably one of the best things that ever happened to the city.” The inspector’s finding showed that there, “wasn’t anything wrong with the way the City was operating. We did a motion not to accept his report; which was unique,” states the Mayor. “Even though, he didn’t find anything, we found so many glaring mistakes in his report it was mind-boggling.”
Not accepting the report forced the Province to look at the city in a different way, says Copeland, “especially, when the Wing Commander blasted us in Council about the quality of the city. In terms of the infrastructure and high taxes, etc.” The Wing Commander then signed a letter explaining the conditions, “we sent it off to Premier (Ed) Stelmach. Right away, Premier Stelmach really looked at Cold Lake.”
That lead to the four municipalities, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Lac La Biche County, the MD of Bonnyville and the City of Cold Lake, “coming together for really only one purpose, in the [Legislature], to help the sustainability of Cold Lake. That was the purpose, period.” In the end the deal was brokered, “the City of Fort McMurray got some crown land to build out their city, Lac La Biche County got 16 townships of land in exchange for the air weapons range, no land was taken away from the MD of Bonnyville and they didn’t inherit the City of Cold Lake. The Air Weapons Range was going to come to the City of Cold Lake.”
“What’s unique about the ID-349 is that it’s an island; other municipalities saw this [as an opportunity],” Mayor Copeland explains that there was discussion of creating a ‘land bridge’ from ID-349, down Primrose Lake Road and join Cold Lake North, “unfortunately, when the deal got brokered there wasn’t that missing deal. So, people in the neighbourhood look at this island as an issue.”
“The intent of that agreement, was that ID-349 would always transition to the City of Cold Lake. For the first five years of the deal, it was weening off Lac La Biche,” revenue from ID-349 was slowly transitioned off Lac La Biche County, as the new lands they were given in the deal built up assessment. Mayor Copeland explains that after that initial five year transition period ID-349 was always intended to go to the City of Cold Lake. 2017 is the fifth year of the deal, thus a renegotiation with the Province is needed, which has brought neighbouring municipalities forward asking for some of the ID-349 money.
With that being said, the Mayor says he is in, for regionalization. Essentially, to share all the pot, but all other municipalities must be in too.