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CLAWR money, economic development key issues at Bonnyville budget open house

Bonnyville resident Rolland Theroux, left, quizzes Town Council about financials at the budget open house. 

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ decision on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range money will heavily influence the Town of Bonnyville’s budget for 2020.

With a decision anticipated by the end of December, the Town’s operating budget deficit is just over $525,000 and a capital budget deficit of $5.4 million.

“In the 23 years here, I’ve never seen this happen before where the Minister comes in and tells us that he’s cutting the funding at the beginning of the fourth quarter…and all of the sudden you’ve already expended those dollars and now you’re working overtime trying to make sense of this,” said councillor Ray Prevost.

Bonnyville received $3.76 million from ID 349 and $1 million from the regional partnership funding, and CAO Mark Power said the Town would be asking for an additional $1 million in the new deal.

Power also said that municipalities cannot pass a budget with a deficit, which means if the CLAWR money is altered or taken away in the new formula, tough decisions will have to be made.

“If it doesn’t come through, we’re going to make some major really tough decisions,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski.

Economic development

Residents got the opportunity to quiz town council on the outlook for the town amidst this uncertainty on Tuesday night at the budget open house.

“We’ve watched this downturn go for a significant number of years now, these are not looking better. We have differences close. We’ve had people laid off. I want to know what we’re doing in terms of economic development, because this doesn’t tell me much about economic development,” said resident Karyann Boychuk.

The Town is contemplating spending $80,000 with the M.D. of Bonnyville on an economic development grant, and will decide during these budget deliberations.

Boychuk was one of a few residents who spoke toward the need of economic development in the community.

Mayor Gene Sobolewoski remained noncommital on what the Town will decide with the grant, which could include an economic development officer, stating its hard to measure successes with the program.

“In terms of an economic development plan, we don’t have one yet. And what is the investment to the community or communities in terms of the M.D. and the Town going to be to be able to start achieving it? And what can we measure a success?

“Because that seems to be one of the major pitfalls that a lot of other communities especially in collaborations, they have to try and figure out some way that there’s a measurability after five years or after 10 years to say this was a program worthwhile.”

The Town must pass a budget before December 31.

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