Craig Copeland announces letting his name stand for Mayor of Cold Lake once again in upcoming municipal elections in the fall.
I have been lucky enough to be the Mayor for Cold Lake since 2007. It’s been a very rewarding experience working with council and the staff for the City of Cold Lake in moving this City forward in replacing aging infrastructure and shaping the community as not only an affordable place to live, but also the community of choice in Northeast Alberta.
In 2007 it was obvious to those on Council that the City was not sustainable based on the 85 per cent residential based tax assessment that the City operated on. Council and administration worked diligently with the Government of Alberta and our local MLA in educating them both about the infrastructure deficit we were faced with, our tax structure, the service area we cover (three communities became one) and the assessment disparity that exists between urban and rural municipalities.
In late 2011 Council succeeded in an agreement with the GOA that the industrial taxes collected on the Air Weapons Range (ID349) would be transitioned over a five year period to the City of Cold Lake and by 2017 the taxes would flow in its entirety. It was an agreement that also saw three other municipalities benefit. All three municipalities and the Province came to the table to help the City of Cold Lake become sustainable.
In 2016 and into 2017 the City has had to defend the agreement. The GOA has been lobbied by neighboring municipalities to change the funding agreement. The City since 2012 has received over 100 million dollars which has been invested in the infrastructure and service delivery of the City. Hopefully before the upcoming election the Province will see that the ID 349 monies (25 million in 2017) remain in its full allocation for the City. If the Province decides to carve up the tax revenue that is collected by the industrial companies that operate on the AWR then will the Province be doing the same to the other rural industrial based municipalities across the Province? In some rural municipalities industrial taxes represent 80-90 percent of the total taxes collected to operate the municipality.
The next council will be faced with the biggest challenge which is the ID 349 funding. If this funding changes and is revised downwards then a Council will be faced with lowering the budget and deciding what programs get cut and push out capital infrastructure further for replacement. There are a ton of projects in our City going forward from Gymnastics and Dance looking for standalone buildings at the Energy Center, Aquatic Center, Marina expansion, and Waste Water Treatment plant to the continuation of highway 28 improvements to the entrance of the City to name a few big ticket items.
The next council will have a new Municipal Government Act that is the “rule book” in governing your municipality. One of the most significant changes is that an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) must be in place by 2019 with your neighboring municipalities. Instead of legislation reducing the amount of municipalities in the Province the government wants urban and rural municipalities to agree to a formula on how many of their residents utilize each other’s facilities and services (fire, police, roads, water and sewer). Example of what is in a ICF would be Cold Lake residents utilize the Kinosoo Ridge Ski Hill the City should help pay proportionate cost for operating and capital. The MD residents would pay proportionately for the recreational facilities in the City that they use. This agreement between the City and the MD will be one of the most significant tasks the next councils must do over their four year term. The province has not provided a template so it will be left to the municipalities to work out before the 2019 deadline.
The next council will continue to carry on agenda items that the present council has been working on. The items include commercial passenger air service, expanding the medical services offered in Cold Lake, lobbying for school replacements for both school boards and expanding the Portage College footprint in our City. It is very possible that the long drawn out PILT tax file with the Federal Government and the Annexation application with the MD Bonnyville may be completed before the next election.
I have been honored to serve the residents of Cold Lake and I feel along with my council colleagues and the staff of the City we have advanced the City forward and made it a great place to live and raise a family. I look forward to another opportunity to serve the residents of Cold Lake for another four years.