New county funding for Sexsmith rec facilities will be fairer to town’s taxpayers: Mayor

·3 min read

An Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) between Sexsmith and the County of Grande Prairie includes additional county funding for recreational operating costs.

County council approved the ICF during its meeting Monday, after Sexsmith council adopted it last week.

An ICF is an agreement for collaboration on services and are mandatory between neighbouring municipalities under the provincial Municipal Government Act (MGA).

“Collaboration is critical,” said Sexsmith mayor Kate Potter.

“Our residents don’t see municipal boundaries and go back and forth for … access to churches, schools and doctor’s offices, so collaboration is imperative if you want to serve your residents well.”

ICFs are broadly concerned with services and infrastructure, identifying which services are best provided on a municipal or intermunicipal basis, according to the MGA.

The ICF is the product of approximately three years of negotiation, Potter noted.

“I’m quite excited we’ve come to a final agreement,” said county reeve Leanne Beaupre.

“Sexsmith provides services for our residents … (and) if it wasn’t for Sexsmith, Beaverlodge, Hythe or Wembley, the county would have to consider providing these services on a standalone basis.”

Potter said many county residents use Sexsmith facilities, with approximately 50 per cent of the usership of the Sexsmith Arena being from the county.

“Right now, Sexsmith taxpayers are partly subsidizing the county to have those services,” she said.

While the county has offered operational grants for facilities in the past, the ICF sets county funding at a more equitable rate, Potter said.

Annual community funding from the county to Sexsmith will consist of $107,884 in 2021 for recreation, rising to $110,834 in 2025, according to county administration.

The 2021 community funding includes $74,597 for the Sexsmith Arena, $24,000 to maintain greenspace and parks, $4,508 for the community centre and $4,779 for the civic centre.

Rachel Wueschner, Sexsmith chief administrative officer, said county operational funds didn’t go directly to the town before the ICF.

The county did provide operational funds to the Sexsmith Agricultural Society and Sexsmith Curling Club, but the new funding under the ICF “will at least double” county funding, Wueschner said.

The greenspace funding is entirely new, she said.

Additionally, the county is committing up to $369,585 toward maintaining town facilities over the next five years, according to county communications.

The maintenance funding is a new guarantee from the county, though the town was always able to request such support before, Potter said.

The ICF addresses other areas of collaboration, citing existing agreements between the town and county.

These include use of county assessors and a shared assessment review board, as well as an agreement for Sexsmith FCSS to serve nearby county residents.

Sexsmtih FCSS’ programming includes home support.

Under the 2019 agreement the county provides 50 per cent of what the province provides to Sexsmith FCSS, with the agreement having no expiry date, according to the ICF.

The municipalities also have a firefighting assistance agreement for 2021 to 2026, recently renewed.

Under the road maintenance agreement, Sexsmith and county crews can assist each other, with fees to be set from time to time.

The agreement was established in 2019 and lasts until 2023, according to the ICF.

Potter said the key aim of collaboration is ensuring quality services for residents.

Another important aim is to build trust between the town and county, she said.

Sexsmith and the county are also working on an Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) to strategize development of border areas.

An IDP information session is taking place at the Sexsmith Community Centre Nov. 18 from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. and 7:30 to 8:15 p.m.

Registration is taking place at by Nov. 17.

The county completed its ICFs with Beaverlodge and Wembley this spring and with Saddle Hills, Greenview and Birch Hills in 2019.

Per city council’s request, the ICF between the city and county of Grande Prairie is going to arbitration.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News