Boundary alterations were on the mind of the RM of Edenwold during its presentation to the White City-Emerald Park Business Association breakfast on Feb. 10.
While highlighting work done with neighbouring Pilot Butte and Balgonie on the future growth of those communities, RM planning and development manager Jana Jedlic said work continues to be done on the prospect of forming a municipal district with the Village of Edenwold.
Questions from the audience however veered largely toward White City’s proposal to annex Emerald Park and several surrounding areas.
“Our position on this really hasn’t changed,” RM reeve Mitchell Huber said. “We feel it’s the best situation for our ratepayers to stay as we are today. That being said, we have tried to have some talks with the town about a municipal district. The municipal district idea is Alberta-based. It’s less governance over the area.”
Huber said he suspected the Town of White City wants to become a city and have one jurisdiction including Emerald Park.
“If we go with one city, as it’s presented today, it will take 40 per cent of our tax base, which means a complete restructuring. If you take 40 per cent away from any one of your businesses, you’d need to go in a completely different direction. We suggest we are almost already dealing with a municipal district in the RM of Edenwold. We have two councillors who are completely urban, a couple who are country-residential and a couple who are completely rural. It’s basically the same format. If we all got together under a municipal district, which is one of the ideas the province is promoting, you’d have one council and one authority and you would run the area similar to how we do it already.”
Huber said the White City annexation file is now being handled by lawyers as they work through the process.
As for the Village of Edenwold and its 230 residents, Huber said it’s a small community struggling with infrastructure issues and does not have the same development taking place as in other areas of the municipality.
“The less governance model would mean you’d get rid of the village council,” Huber said. “They run a mayor and councillors now and it would be very achievable for us to take that over based on economies of scale. It wouldn’t be a big deal to us, and it would be a step in the right direction. On the whole, we believe less governance is better. That’s what we are working towards.”
In comparison to other provinces, Saskatchewan has a high number of municipal governments with more than 770 in a province with 1.17 million people. Manitoba’s 1.36 million residents live in 137 municipalities, after a 2012 provincial law forced amalgamations in areas where communities had fewer than 1,000 residents. Prior to that amalgamation law, there were approximately 190 municipalities.
Jedlic said a municipal district taking over governance of the Village of Edenwold does not mean the community itself is dissolved.
“While it’s unlikely the village will have the same number of seats at the RM, as the population of the RM is closer to 5,000, they will still have a presence and a seat and we will work through that with them as partners,” Jedlic said. “If you have willing partners, you can make progress that’s a win-win, that meets their priorities as well as the RM.”
Jedlic noted the shared experiences of councillors from those varied communities is a benefit in making decisions such as zoning subdivisions.
The RM also reported it is working on a strategic plan for the next couple of years. Expected outcomes from that plan will be finding ways to improve its internal systems and service delivery, and there will be public engagement to ensure it is in alignment with what the community wants and needs.
Also on tap for 2021 is a new Emerald Park fire hall, with preliminary design work having been done in 2020. Jedlic said key factors include safety and efficiency, changing earlier plans as needed to accommodate those concerns, and its location. Tenders are expected to be out in several weeks with a construction start later this year, Jedlic said.
Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum