Mayor Craig Copeland says securing a long-term agreement with Province on Air Weapons Range funds his top priority.
“It will be devastating for the City of Cold Lake if the Province wants to change the [ID 349] agreement,” Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland says with recent talks of the possibility of other surrounding communities receiving funds from the industry tax assessment on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. “The Air Weapons Range funding has given us a good-stable source of funding to do so much for the residents of the City of Cold Lake.”
“We get about $25 million a year in taxes. As the development in the area expands, more money is coming to the City of Cold Lake.” Mayor Copeland says these funds have allowed the City to finish important infrastructure and recreational projects; growing the livability in Cold Lake.
“It’s allowed us to build the first arena. It’s allowed us to expand at Imperial Place and build a second arena,” Mayor Copeland breaks down costs at $12 million for a very basic arena; the new arena comes with a $20 million price tag, “all funded, entirely, by the Air Weapons Range.” Other projects that have been completed or in the process of competition thanks to CLAWR include the Kinosoo Beach remodel, the Cold Lake South Fire Hall, the artificial turf outdoor sports field and the skate park.
The mayor says he, Council and City Administration are lobbying hard for the government to continue the current agreement. The agreement is in its last year of the five-year term, so it is imperative that the City locks down an agreement going forward, says Copeland. “The agreement was signed off in 2012, to transition all the industrial assessment into the City of Cold Lake,” at the time, Mayor Copeland says there were four municipalities in on the agreement; Cold Lake, the Municipal District of Bonnyville, Lac La Biche County and the Municipal District of Wood Buffalo. “Along with the Province, we were looking into the sustainability of the City of Cold Lake.”
Essentially, Cold Lake is receiving a portion of the tax money from oil & gas companies that are on CLAWR, “oil and gas companies pay taxes, just like you do on your house or your business,” explains the mayor, “the industry will get a tax notice and pay to the municipality. In this case, ID 349, for companies like Cenovus, Husky, TransCanada and companies like that, they send their tax money to the province. The province keeps a small portion and send the rest to the City of Cold Lake.”
The separation of City limits and CLAWR is what’s causing some issues in the renewal of the agreement, explains Mayor Copeland, “there isn’t a ‘land bridge’ between [CLAWR] and the City of Cold Lake.” Basically, there is a separation of the two lands by MD of Bonnyville lands. “ID 349 is an island on its own. It’s probably one of the unfortunate areas of the deal when it was brokered in leg. No land was taken away from the MD to give a continuous border.” A solution to this problem, says Copeland, would be to take a strip of land from the MD and give to the City of Cold Lake to make a connection between the two lands.
Mayor Copeland says that a land bridge is one of the many possibilities the City is looking at while in negotiations with the Province over ID 349. The worst part of the whole situation is it puts the City in limbo, “we don’t know what’s going to happened, so we’re stuck in limbo. Administration can’t plan for the 2018 budget and we’re stuck not knowing what kind of funds will be available for future projects.”
Look at the next 30 to 50 years, we have to look at the future of our region – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake
“Our argument back to the Province, is if they want to change up ID 349, then let’s look at the big picture. A look at everything in the region, there’s more than enough [tax money] in the entire region; the Town of Bonnyville, the City of Cold Lake and the MD of Bonnyville, there’s more than enough. Bring it into a big pool, let’s carve up this [region] into one municipality or two municipalities and be a strong urban-rural coming together area.” Copeland has been very vocal about his belief that regionalization is the answer to the money woes in the region. “Have this Bonnyville – Cold Lake trade off stop. Let’s have a strong region. Our Council has said it before CLAWR and we continue to tell the Minister (of Municipal Affairs) after CLAWR, merge everyone together or two regions and divide the assessment (taxes) per capita evenly.”