Residents of Dewberry will vote November 3 – 4 determining whether they want to remain a village and implement changes to achieve viability, or dissolve becoming a hamlet in the County of Vermilion River.
A report was presented Thursday night by Municipal Affairs outlining a viability review that began at the beginning of last year upon the request of village council.
“A lot of people were out of work with the economy, and the government was in the process of cutting funding so we wanted to be proactive in fixing some of the viability issues that we have,” said deputy mayor Cameron Stevenson.
MLA Garth Rowswell was in attendance along with representation from the village and the county.
If the village remains, Municipal Affairs has laid out 19 recommendations that would need to be met, including addressing how they will handle bylaws in the future.
Roy Bedford, Municipal Viability Advisor with Municipal Affairs, said property taxes or utility fees are the only two sources to fund some of those recommendations.
He reviewed sustainable governance options for the community. They also discussed administration and operations, infrastructure, services, finances, assessment and taxation. Local residents watched a slideshow describing many of the potential changes and were given the opportunity to ask questions about the report.
“Administration is the largest operating expense in Dewberry,” said Bedford.
“To deal with long term tax arrears, the village would need to determine whether they will increase taxes or decrease services. There is not an overall tax decrease by dissolving, but if the expense is less than what is collected by the county, a reserve would service future uses only within Dewberry,” said Bedford.
The report listed approximately $5 million worth of infrastructure projects to be completed over a 10 year period. If they remain a village, they will have to look at where they will get funding, although there has been $2.6 million already committed for use, and they could possibly find more grant dollars through the provincial and federal governments.
In addition, $414,000 worth of those projects are already underway.
“Since the viability review began, the village has taken a serious look at projects and began a number [of them] this year. In addition, there are great relationships happening here in Dewberry so no recommendations were made for Regional Cooperation,” said Bedford.
In the coming days as the community examines the options or as they move forward in the future, he said Municipal Affairs is always available to provide more information along with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and others for additional resources.
Bedford also encouraged attendees to share the information with any residents who may not have received a mail out.
Vermilion River County councillor Les Cusack said during the meeting that they’ll everything they can to support Dewberry.
“We hope you choose to remain a village, but if you choose to dissolve I don’t want you to feel like you are going to lose your identity,” said Cusack.
Internship Coordinator, Kai So, said under the Local Authorities Election Act, that you have to be a resident of the Village of Dewberry in order to vote.
Approximately 10 out of over 100 residents attended the meeting, so village council members are hopeful for as much voter turnout as possible.
“Recognize that the decision you are making isn’t for tomorrow, it could be for five or ten years down the road. Vote on that, not for the short term,” said Bedford.
More information can be found online with Municipal Affairs, the County of Vermilion River, Village of Dewberry, or Alberta Queen’s Printer under the Municipal Government Act or Local Authorities Election Act.
Voting will take place at the Dewberry Hall on November 3 from 4:00–8:00pm and November 4 from 10:00am–4:00pm.
If unable to vote in person, residents should request a special ballot (by calling 780-427-2225 or emailing [email protected]) that must be returned to the Returning Officer in Edmonton before 4:00pm on November 2.
Voters must be 18 years of age, a Canadian citizen, and reside in the Village of Dewberry as of the election days. Identification with their Dewberry address will be required (or determined through a vouching option) and they must place an X in the box of which option they would prefer.
The vote result will be posted on the Village door following the official count. The Minister of Municipal Affairs will follow up either by implementing the action plan verifying that Dewberry is viable in the future or by bringing the dissolution before cabinet.
Bedford said the action plan could take up to two months, and a dissolution could potentially be anytime in 2021.