Regionalization or amalgamation?


Firstly, we think it is generally accepted that the formation of one regional government or the sharing of municipal services on a larger scale are good ideas. So there are two choices–to further regionalize in terms of services or the amalgamation of all the municipalities in the region which is a big step.
If it is done right, amalgamation could mean savings in terms of administration and governance (do we need 32 councillors for the region?), public works and a host of other services provided by our area municipalities.
It doesn’t take much to come up with several scenarios that could work and we are sure that everyone will have their own ideas from leaving things the way they are to dividing the region into several wards.
Could Brooks remain as one centre or broken up into wards combined with a stretch of the rural area? Or could we divide the rural area into, say, five divisions and keep Brooks as is with five councillors for each.
If we wanted to keep representation by population relatively even how many wards or constituencies would we need? Would 10 work? It will be tough to have an odd number because then one area–Brooks or the rural divisions–would have one additional councillor which won’t be accepted.
Will the mayor, reeve or president or whatever title is selected be voted on by all residents of the region or will he/she be voted into office by the elected councillors? With two major municipal buildings and a new one in Duchess, should the region’s departments be split up?
How would we initially staff the regional government–layoffs, attrition, keep everyone on the payroll?
Then again, if this is not the way residents want to go, then regionalization of the area’s services on a larger scale might be the answer. We already co-operate on several levels and this would simply be increased to hopefully eradicate any duplication of services which would save tax dollars.
There are several open houses planned throughout the area this month and next. We hope there will be all sorts of scenarios discussed by residents and hopefully any serious concerns can be answered.
For example if we amalgamate there is some information circulating about the urban residents taking advantage of the county’s linear tax for their own use. Conversely we could say rural residents will benefit from city taxes because they will have to help pay for the arenas and golf courses in the county plus for RCMP which the county pays nothing for now.
This really shouldn’t be a concern because there most likely would be one huge budget with all taxes pooled. Hopefully it could be worked so no one’s taxes increase.
There is also some talk of a plebiscite which shouldn’t be necessary if there is enough positive input from residents.
There have been several meetings of the regionalization committee held and so obviously there have been ideas put on the table.
Hopefully after the open houses we will have some generally accepted scenarios regarding this region’s future governance.
We must also remember that the province has mandated that communities form Intermunicipal Collaborative Frameworks (ICF) to avoid duplication of services and have communities working together as a region.
This means that some form of change must happen. All municipalities will be required to adopt an (ICF) with each municipality they share a common border with by April 1, 2020.
Residents should make a point of attending one of the open houses because it is crucial that we all understand what may happen and how it could work. This is not just for our generation but also for the next.
Get involved.