Come Feb. 1, the RMs of Albert, Edward and Arthur will be merged into one municipality unless they come up with an alternate proposal that has all three parties involved in an amalgamation of one sort or another.
“I’ve sent them a letter that clearly states they will be amalgamated together unless they vary that plan,” Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers said. “They are in charge of their own destiny right now, and as long as no one is left out, we can work to approving an amalgamation plan for them.”
A plan that had Albert and Arthur amalgamate was rejected by the department because it left Edward, the most southwesterly RM in the province, without a partner.
“We want Albert, Arthur and Edward to be in a position to be more efficient, produce some saving for their ratepayers and put themselves in a position to take advantage of economic opportunities,” Struthers said.
He added the merger will strengthen their ability to apply for projects under the second Building Canada Fund, which relies on a cost-sharing agreement of one-third federal, one-third provincial and one-third municipal dollars for any infrastructure project.
“We need a strong municipal partner to take advantage of what is a big opportunity,” Struthers said.
A survey conducted by Albert ratepayer Robin Patmore showed 225 residents favoured a merger with Pipestone, while five chose Arthur and six were undecided.
There are 323 residents in Albert, according to the 2011 census, meaning about 70 per cent of the population wants to merge with Pipestone.
After more than 40 ratepayers packed the Albert council chamber to voice their displeasure with the Arthur merger, council established a committee to look at the potential benefits of merging with Pipestone.
From Pipestone’s perspective, its council was going to hold public consultations on Jan. 13, regarding a potential merger with Albert, according to Patmore.
However, that discussion was quashed when the province condensed the timelines, forcing Pipestone to a decision on the merger yesterday.
Without proper public consultation, Pipestone voted not to accept Albert as a partner.
“I can’t argue with their decision,” Patmore said. “We are trying to keep this process as democratic as possible and they need the input of their ratepayers.”
Patmore hopes Pipestone will still push forward with the public consultations and put a potential Pipestone-Albert merger to a second vote.
He’s frustrated that the government would interfere with two municipalities trying to work toward a co-operative amalgamation.
Arthur Reeve Jim Trewin said the whole process has slowed since their proposal was rejected.
“We haven’t done anything since the Dec. 1 deadline,” Trewin said. “It seems like it out of our hands.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 21, 2013