Regional Governance Model Progressing

Regional Governance Model Progressing

-Region residents to be asked to provide feedback when details completed-

October 6, 2017 – For Immediate Release

Progress is being made on developing the details of what a single-tier regional municipality would look like. Results are anticipated to be presented for public feedback in Spring, 2018.

“Regional governance is a complex and emotional subject, and we know that the top of mind question you have is: how would this be better than what we have now?” said Bob Coutts, FIP (Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership) Chair. “We have been working over the summer months on the details you have asked us for so that you can consider this question with as much information as possible.”

Municipal Chief Administrative Officers from each community gathered over the summer months to collaborate on determining what a services structure would look like. This is the most complex part of the governance model because not all communities in the region have all the same services and/or service levels, some new desired services were identified in a community survey in 2016, and both range of services and levels of those services are directly related to taxation and economic development that positions for the future. This work also involves presenting some options for residents to consider.

Governance model details are being generated in four areas:
• Governance: Developing a governance model (boundaries/divisions) to ensure citizens are properly represented by elected officials.
• Services: Establishing uniform service choices and service levels for the region.
• Taxation and Debt: Balancing service levels with taxation levels while positioning to be attractive to investment and new families in future.
• Identity: Ensuring each community retains its unique identity under a new regional context.

After the municipal election on October 16, 2017 the following process related to the regional governance initiative will be undertaken:
• November, 2017 – orientation session for newly-elected officials. Get their feedback and/or approval of the regional governance initiative to continue.
• Spring, 2018 – Public input session(s) to present proposed regional government model details.
• FIP considers any amendments based on public feedback.
• Final Regional Governance Plan is publicized.
• Individual Councils decide how they want to proceed by making a regional governance decision (i.e. a yes or no to amalgamation).
• If there is a decision to proceed with regional governance, submit amalgamation application to Minister of Municipal Affairs. Note: A decision to amalgamate is voluntary. An application to the Minister may involve some or all of the FIP municipalities.

To arrive at this phase of the regional governance initiative, FIP has completed significant research, including the following:

1) Evaluation of regional governance models in Canada
2) A regional services survey
3) Infrastructure assessment
4) Four public open houses
5) Municipal report card of current municipal operations

Informed by this research, FIP member communities unanimously voted to pursue development of the details of a proposed single tier governance model – from a number of potential governance models considered – as a best means to position region communities for the future.

FIP is comprised of representatives from all municipalities within the Flagstaff Region: the Towns of Daysland, Hardisty, Killam and Sedgewick, the Villages of Alliance, Forestburg, Heisler and Lougheed, and Flagstaff County. More information on the FIP Regional Governance Initiative can be found at www.flagstaffunited.ca

For more information, contact:
Bob Coutts
Chair, Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership
Email: couttshardware@persona.ca Phone: 780-679-4721

Town of Sedgewick Withdraws From Regional Governance Initiative

Town of Sedgewick Withdraws From Regional Governance Initiative

-Governance initiative to proceed, with region residents to be asked to evaluate governance model when complete-

The Town of Sedgewick has withdrawn from the Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership’s (FIP) Regional Governance Sub-Committee. The Town of Sedgewick remains a member of FIP.

“Sedgewick Council has questions and concerns regarding Single Tier Regional Governance being presented as a sole option, the speed with which the initiative is moving forward, and in context of our input not finding favour with the Sub-Committee,” said Perry Robinson, Mayor, Town of Sedgewick. “When we first supported the Regional Governance Study there were to be more options on the table, with more time to discuss it. As it is, we feel that we should let the Sub-Committee work unobstructed by our questions and concerns and be given the chance to come up with the proposal in the established timeline. As Sedgewick remains a member of FIP, we will have our chance to hear that proposal at that time, with the opportunity to have our input then. In the meantime, Sedgewick wishes the Sub-Committee fruitful progress for a productive outcome.”

“While Sedgewick’s decision is unfortunate and we will leave the door open for Sedgewick to consider a single tier regional governance solution that will be presented to the region for consideration, the remaining eight communities in the region will proceed with no less energy because of our belief that the time has come to consider a governance solution that best positions us to stabilize and grow population and create new opportunities for our communities,” said Bob Coutts, Deputy Mayor of Forestburg and FIP Chair. “So many people in our region have an instinct that we need to do things differently in order for our communities to grow and prosper, and this is our best shot at moving forward more proactively.”

Bob noted that the Governance Initiative is a logical leveraging and expansion of 14 years of collaborative FIP work in the region that has recorded successes such as regional water and solid waste management, and that FIP isn’t about to put a halt to a current two-year process to look at governance options and present a ‘best’ option to region residents for consideration. “We owe it to our citizens to examine and consider if a single tier governance model is a way to proceed in the future.”

The Governance Sub-Committee’s current crafting of a single tier model of government is anticipated to be presented to the public for consideration and discussion in the late Spring. This model builds from a 2015 Study that tested deeper region-based governance barriers and opportunities, including identification of a regional collaborative governance pathway. Subsequent work initiated in May, 2016 completed each of an Infrastructure, and Community Sustainability Assessment of all communities in the region, a Resident Services Survey to better understand desired services and amenities, and research of successful examples of Region-Based Collaboration/Governance in Canada that led to region-resident engagement focused on proposed regional governance principles.

Based on the convergence of 18 months of prior governance study work, on December 5, 2016 municipal representatives from each of the FIP member communities unanimously motioned to design a single region-based governance model for region residents to consider when complete.

FIP is comprised of representatives from all municipalities within the Flagstaff Region: the Towns of Daysland, Hardisty, Killam and Sedgewick, the Villages of Alliance, Forestburg, Heisler and Lougheed, and Flagstaff County.

Media contact: Bob Coutts, Chair, Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership
Email: couttshardware@persona.ca Phone: 780-679-4721.

Committee Working on Single-Tier Governance Model for Consideration

Committee Working on Single-Tier Governance Model for Consideration

-Region residents to be asked to evaluate model when complete-

January 31, 2017 – For immediate release

A subcommittee of FIP (Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership), with representation from all the region’s municipalities, is currently crafting a single tier model of government for consideration and discussion by the public in each community.

“Right now, we all have a lot of questions about what this would look like and what adopting such a model would mean to each community. We are creating a solution that answers those questions,” said Bob Coutts, Deputy Mayor of Forestburg and FIP Chair.

The subcommittee is using information and data collected so far – spanning a year of work – which includes:
• A public opinion survey on services provided and desired.
• The results of a professional infrastructure management analysis that shows what re-investment in aging infrastructure like water/sewer pipes and roads is required.
• A viability assessment of current municipal operations.
• An agreed-to set of principles (governance, taxation, services, community identity) that reflects successful amalgamation implementations elsewhere.

There are very clear parameters around what can and can’t be done as the FIP subcommittee works out details of a model. As Perry Robinson, Mayor of Sedgewick said, “It states very clearly in the Municipal Governance Act that debt and savings remain with the municipality that created them. So, this isn’t about having another community pay off your debt or about losing savings. This model will be focused on how we work better together in the future to find long-term success in attracting families and investment, and being able to provide for quality of life-focused services. We owe this to the next generation.”

The governance model will be worked on over the next couple of months. When a solution is ready, FIP will go back to region residents with a public consultation process that seeks feedback and considers any further tweaking of the single tier governance model based on this feedback. Following that, each municipality – by motion of Council – will decide whether their community will participate in a single tier governance model (amalgamation).

In the mean-time, Questions of the Week – where people can ask any question (easiest to reach us at feedback@flagstaffunited.ca) and we generate some answers – will be posted on the www.flagstaffunited.ca website.

The Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership is comprised of representatives from all municipalities within the Flagstaff Region: the Towns of Daysland, Hardisty, Killam and Sedgewick, the Villages of Alliance, Forestburg, Heisler and Lougheed, and Flagstaff County. More information on the FIP Regional Governance Initiative can be found at www.flagstaffunited.ca

For more information, contact: Bob Coutts, Chair, Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership
Email: couttshardware@persona.ca Phone: 780-679-4721

It’s Not About the Money, By Gail Watt, Mayor of Daysland

It’s Not About the Money, By 	Gail Watt, Mayor of Daysland

In Flagstaff Region, for many years collaboration and consultation have created successful programming for the citizens. Waste Management, Flagstaff Family and Community Services, Christmas Sharing program, Flagstaff Regional Housing, Emergency Services, Physician Recruitment and Disaster Training are just some of the excellent examples of how our collaboration benefits the communities.

So if the past is the best predictor of the future, it appears that we have an excellent road map to follow.

As Mayor and Councillor for the past four years, I have watched elected officials DECIDE to work together – not for the money, not for the fame, but for the reason of making this a better place for our citizens.

We have acknowledged the past hardships in relationships, today. We want to move on past what we were and become more than what we are meant to be.

We know everyone in the Region wants more and better services, as do we in Daysland. Becoming aware that we can control our destiny is the first step in actually controlling our destiny.

We want to become Daysland, where people want to belong. Daysland’s identity is assured to carry-on, and we aspire to welcome new people to create that economic future, to inspire community leaders, to come forward enjoying closer relationships throughout our region.

My personal advice in my Regional Governance Training Group has been: “We are not marrying for money”.

So come on, join in these conversations, surveys and interactions. Help us become Daysland, one of the best neighbours we can be.

Strome – One Community’s Journey, By Brian McGaffigan, Former Mayor/Current Strome Resident

Strome – One Community’s Journey, By Brian McGaffigan, Former Mayor/Current Strome Resident

For over 100 years, the Village of Strome was a central fixture for people in the region. It was a hub of activity – a place where people came to work, play and raise their families. But over time that began to change, and Strome struggled to maintain its population and economic activity, causing it to become less-and-less viable. Eventually, in January 2016, the Village dissolved into the County and became a hamlet. And I would argue that we are better for it today.

Here’s a short history lesson. Strome’s transition to becoming a hamlet really began in 2005, with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) President’s Summit on Community Sustainability. This Summit challenged Strome Council’s way of thinking, as we began to re-define what “sustainability” meant to our community.

Increasingly, complicated government rules and regulations pressured Council to be innovative in providing administrative and public works services. As a result, Council contracted the Town of Killam to provide Public Works Services, and later Flagstaff County for Administration. For this innovative approach, the Village of Strome received the 2010 AUMA Municipal Sustainability – Innovative Communities Award.

This indicated that we were on the right track. So we pushed our thinking even further. Not long after, we found more efficiency by centralizing both Public Works and Administration Services to Flagstaff County. This meant our community now had access to a vast array of professionals and capacity we hadn’t had in the past.

Initially there was some negative reaction to these changes. Residents were concerned with losing community identity, reduced office hours and non-resident public works. However, the world did not end! The grass was cut, snow removed and maintenance carried out. In fact, extra grants were received to upgrade infrastructure, and a 10-year sustainability project plan was established and budgeted for. Village beautification projects were initiated. Communication was deemed essential for any change that was proposed, and the Village Newsletter kept residents up-to-date; meetings were held, and numerous individual conversations occurred in an effort to help people understand the situation.

The next stage of looking at sustainability came with the reduced revenue due to the closure of the elevator. The tax burden on residents was increasing each year simply to maintain what we had. The mil rate was heading for the 20 per cent mark!

This pushed Council to request a viability study by the Government of Alberta. The outcome of this study was that 98 per cent of residents voted to dissolve and become a hamlet within Flagstaff County. Council had done its job and was disbanded on January 1, 2016 – 11 years since the initial foray into Community Sustainability, and five years since the AUMA Award.

But residents faced more changes, and we got through them. For example, utility bills increased to reflect the increased infrastructure costs, but the mill rate for property taxes was more than halved, compensating for the increased utility bills – which would have continued to rise regardless.

However, with the transition money provided by the Alberta government, the County set out on an ambitious program of inspecting, maintaining and upgrading infrastructure. Some County residents asked if Strome had won the lottery – but no, these improvements came out of a long process of thinking differently and working toward sustainability.

This is the story: by cooperation with Killam and later Flagstaff County, Strome became sustainable in its administration and public works, maintaining its own identity before moving into a hamlet status as members of Flagstaff County. It took risks to break new ground, but this is only a beginning.

Now we are faced with even bigger challenges as a region and the need for more collaboration. Indeed big changes – perhaps to our governance model – are now essential. My hope is that as a region, we will rise to the challenge and make the sacrifices necessary to prepare for the future, and be an example of what is possible when rural people come together for mutual benefit.

Open House Information and Discussion Handout

Open House Information and Discussion Handout

A Handout has been developed and will be made available at the Open Houses:

November 1, 5:30-8:30pm, Strome Seniors Centre

November 3, 5:30-8:30pm, Alliance Community Hall

November 19 10am-1pm, Heisler Seniors Centre, and 2-5pm Hardisty Community Hall.

The handout provides an overview of the initiative and its progress to date.

Click Here For Handout

October 28 News Release

Community Open Houses Set for Regional Governance Initiative

Community Open Houses Set for Regional Governance Initiative

Community Open Houses Set for Regional Governance Initiative
Region residents encouraged to join the conversation

October 21, 2016 – For immediate release

Four community open houses have been confirmed for the Public Engagement Phase of the Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership (FIP) Regional Governance Initiative.

“Citizen engagement is vital as we work together to chart a path forward for the region,” said Bob Coutts, Deputy Mayor of Forestburg and FIP Chair. “I encourage as many people as possible to attend the open houses and have their voices heard.”

The intent is to have these open houses spread across the region to ensure opinions are gathered from as many communities as possible. The open houses will take place on:

November 1st –Strome Seniors Centre. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

November 3rd – Alliance Community Hall, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

November 19th – Heisler Seniors Centre, 10 a.m. to 1p.m.

November 19th – Hardisty Community Hall, 2 to 5 pm

A public information package is available. If people are unable to attend, feedback can be given through the website as well.

The Flagstaff Regional Governance Initiative is exploring new ideas and ways for collaboration between FIP communities. Using input from citizens and community leaders, its goal is to develop a new vision for the region to help it become more successful over the long-term. It is expected to be completed in December 2017.

The Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership is a committee made up of representatives from all municipalities within the Flagstaff Region: the Towns of Daysland, Hardisty, Killam and Sedgewick, the Villages of Alliance, Forestburg, Heisler and Lougheed, and Flagstaff County. More information on the FIP Regional Governance Project can be found at www.flagstaffunited.ca

For more information, contact:
Bob Coutts
Chair, Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership
Email: couttshardware@persona.ca Phone: 780-679-4721

Time To Change The Channel, By Perry Robinson Mayor, Town of Sedgewick

Time To Change The Channel, By Perry Robinson Mayor, Town of Sedgewick

Many communities in the Flagstaff region are over 100 years old. Just think of all the stories our communities could tell. I bet it would make great television.

The good times…the sad times…the action…the drama…communities have everything to make a hit TV show.

Ultimately (and sadly) what seems to sell with the public the most on TV these days is conflict. It can be easy to see it – even in our own communities – if we choose to find it and focus on it.

Yes. Generally we all are neighbourly and friendly with each other. And certainly we care about each other’s success and well-being. That just goes with who we are as people living in the Flagstaff region. It’s how we were raised. But we also have some problems we need to work out. Just like any other neighbourhood.

You see, our boundaries were drawn up when times were different. Maybe they were based on school districts. Maybe on how long we could walk in a day. Or how far we had to haul our grain to the nearest elevator. That made sense back then, but does it today?

We are no longer constrained by boundaries. In today’s world, people, goods and information flow freely across entire continents let alone counties. The old lines in the sand marking our territory are quickly disappearing. Yet many of us fail to see this and let it get in the way of considering how to build our future success.

Sometimes we argue about who should get a recreation centre or seniors’ home. Or who should pay for the water treatment plant. Or how more region-based fire services should work. We can oppose anything more region-based “just because”….before we take the time to think about what that might look like. This leads to uninformed choices about the future.

None of this does any good for each other. It’s interesting TV, but lacks the more soulful and deeper discussion we need to have with each other.

In a world in which our rural population is declining, we need to get out of our sandboxes and think about how to work together to reposition our economic development opportunities, and how to pool resources to meet the needs of future generations.

Perhaps its time to change the channel? Don’t get me wrong – the last 100 years have been great. We have established communities filled with pride and good people. But we need to ask ourselves: will this continue forever? The short answer is, without making some significant changes, no. Early research indicates that although our communities are generally viable today, population and economic trends will challenge viability in future. So how do we tackle this?

For one, we need to stop thinking as islands and start thinking as a region. We are stronger if we work together. We need to forget old grudges and begin a new way of collaboration. Arguing over our slice of territory doesn’t do anything to improve the entire territory, or what it has to offer its citizens.

Once we change our way of thinking and how we work together, then we can then focus on solutions that provide us all with great services and economic opportunities, and attract the families we need.

Only together can we make the TV show less about conflict and more about success. Good news stories may not dominate TV these days, but it would be TV worth watching.

Change Is Hard, By Bud James, Mayor, Town of Killam

Change Is Hard, By Bud James, Mayor, Town of Killam

Change is hard. Change often requires us to take that step into the unknown; to go somewhere that we don’t know. It requires us to step away from the status quo without knowing what consequences we may face. Change can be uncomfortable, and sometimes a bit scary.

Change is also necessary. The world around us is in constant change, and we can’t ignore these external forces; we must adapt to be able to move forward.

This may all seem obvious to many of us, but I think we are very uneasy with the concept of changing the way the communities of Flagstaff interact with each other and with the outside world.

The fact is that we are all struggling with our long-term sustainability. Alberta’s economy has (until the last 18 months or so) been smoking hot in recent years; however Flagstaff has seen little benefit. Our regional population is declining. Upward pressure on property taxes is not sustainable. Provincial municipal funding from here on will be largely dependent on regional collaboration.

The communities of Flagstaff, through the Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership (FIP) committee, have launched a project to determine the best way to move forward together. This project includes a snapshot of where we are today, a look (both nationally and internationally) at what other municipalities are doing, plus some options that may work in our situation.

You will start to see more about this project in The Community Press and on social media. This is a conversation that you need to be paying attention to; that you need to be involved in.

We want to create a ‘made in Flagstaff’ solution that takes advantage of our collective strengths while staying true to each community’s identity. This conversation is for all of us, and everyone’s input is important.

Change is hard. However change, after careful analysis, need not be uncomfortable. Being in charge of our own destiny is a good thing!

I welcome your comments on this topic, as do all my municipal Council colleagues around Flagstaff. Let’s get the conversation started.

“A ship in harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shepp

There’s Power In Numbers, By Debra Smith, Deputy Mayor, Village of Lougheed

There’s Power In Numbers, By Debra Smith, Deputy Mayor, Village of Lougheed

As a Municipal Councilor, I have the privilege to serve the people in my community every day. It’s something I take great pride in. Because I care about them and the future of the place I call home. And it’s precisely those reasons why I support the efforts of the region’s communities to look at ways we can work more closely together.

For you see, over the past few years, I’ve seen the challenges facing our communities from the inside. The list of things that need to be done (or want) gets longer, but list of ways we can pay for them gets shorter.

Much of our infrastructure is need of repair, replacement or upgrades. These are costly items. To address them properly, we either try to divert money from things that we are already doing, or find new ways to raise money. And let’s be honest, those sidewalks and roads aren’t going to plow themselves, and no one really wants to pay more for what they already have.

This is just an example of the challenges facing many of the communities in the region. There’s also population decline (meaning fewer people to pay taxes and less money to fix things), fewer economic opportunities (meaning more families leaving and fewer children in our schools), and a greater desire for services (meaning higher expectations and more projects to fund). These are the kind of facts that keep me awake at night.

As I mentioned, we aren’t the only community in the region facing these issues. Pretty much all of us are from one degree to another. It’s a common threat to everyone. So instead of trying to solve these issues on our own, doesn’t it make sense to team up and tackle the problem as a group?

I believe that cooperating with each other gives us a much better chance of reversing these trends. We can pool our talent, resources and energy to change things – to make things better for ALL of us.

If you don’t believe me, the proof lies in the fact that we have already been successfully collaborating on regional issues for over 15 years. The Regional Emergency Services Communications System; Regional SCADA System for Water Treatment Plants; Regional Assessment Review Board; and the Regional Subdivision and Development Appeal Board are all the result of hard work and cooperation between FIP communities. Now they might not sound glamorous, but they have made a positive difference in the lives of people in the region.

So why can’t we take this further? I believe we should. I also believe that if we don’t, the threats to the viability of our communities will pick us off one-by-one. It’s inevitable. So let’s take control of our destiny and come up with a solution, together.