In 2015, the Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership (FIP) completed a Governance Study with the assistance of 13 Ways, Inc. (consultant).
This Study looked at:
- “Testing” of barriers and opportunities, both perceived and material, to regional shared services and regional governance.
- Exploration of more “aggressive” governance models.
- Identification of a collaborative governance pathway based on research, recognizing trade-offs (community identity, political representation, efficiency in terms of taxation) and internal attitudes/capacity.
Key activities included a survey of Flagstaff region community (9) CAOs and elected officials, evaluation of eight different types of more region-based governance models, governance case study research of places in North America that have implemented region-based governance (services and/or government), and facilitation of two workshops with FIP to explore opportunities and options.
Based on this work, in November, 2015, FIP resolved to further pursue a path towards regional governance, with the goal of maintaining and ensuring the future sustainability of the nine member-communities within the Flagstaff Region.
A pathway (see Figure 1) was laid out to get from point A to point B, which will be region-resident consideration and expression of preference for status quo or a more region-based service and/or governance model in the Fall of 2017 once Phase 2 work has been completed to gather the information needed to make informed decisions.
No one can say what the outcome will be. This is not a “consultation checkbox.” No decisions have been made regarding closer ties or regional collaboration. Phase 2 is all about generating enough information to make informed decisions that nurture prosperity and quality of life in Flagstaff region communities.
To talk about regional cooperation options thoughtfully, in 2016 we have been working so far to understand our current situation:
1) Infrastructure Assessment
We are working to understand the condition of the infrastructure in each municipality to have a better picture of what investment is required to maintain it into the future. This is currently being completed by Urban Systems and results will be communicated to residents.
2) Community Sustainability
We surveyed each community’s administration to better understand sustainability issues. We used a questionnaire that is distributed by Alberta Municipal Affairs to communities interested in assessing their sustainability.
Results show that communities are currently treading water. That means things are OK for now, but that doesn’t mean things are good. Population decline and economic trends will challenge our viability in the future. We don’t have a substantial financial nest egg, and we don’t have much room to raise taxes to pay for maintenance of our current infrastructure, let alone consider investment in any new infrastructure or amenities.
3) Resident Services Survey
We surveyed community residents to better understand desired services and amenities. This work is complete and a summary report is available here.
4) Successful Examples of Region-Based Collaboration/Governance: The Four Principles
We have looked at similar situations in Canada when communities get together to collaborate – from services to governance. From this work we have developed a set of successful practices that can be used to discuss options and recommend a solution – and four sets of principles that other leaders have followed to give their communities the best chance of success when discussing enhanced cooperation, regionalization and/or amalgamation. These principles were the focus of open houses in November, 2016 held in Strome, Alliance, Heisler, and Hardisty – which asked region residents for feedback and input.
5) Resolve to Pursue Design of Single Governance Model
On December 5, 2016, municipal representatives from each of the member communities involved in the Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership unanimously motioned to design a single region-based governance model. A Committee is working on the design of this model and further public consultation will be coming when this work is complete.