Things were looking a lot brighter in the arena of inter-municipal relations last week. All it took was 14 hours of meetings between the councils of the Town of Slave Lake and M.D. of Lesser Slave River, held on a weekend.
“Agreement was reached on most aspects for renewal of the agreements,” town CAO Brian Vance’s written report for his council last week said. “Although a few items remain for further discussion on Nov. 28.”
The news and the mood seemed quite positive at the council meetings that followed the marathon weekend session. There is still some negotiating to be done, as noted, but most of what was causing the conflict seems to have been cleared up.
In concrete terms, the M.D. has agreed to pay the full invoiced amount for 2016 under the two big cost-sharing agreements with the town. It had previously withheld about $240,000 of what was invoiced, divided between the Fire Services Agreement and the Inter-municipal Agreement (cost of rec facilities in town). In return, the town has removed its Dec. 15 deadline for full payment of those 2016 invoiced amounts; it had threatened to withdraw from joint fire services and to set up separate rates for M.D. residents using the pool or the arenas in town.
What the reasoning was for the change of heart by the M.D. on paying up in full was not shared at either of last week’s council meetings. And going forward, there may well be some cost-share adjustments. But at least last year’s amounts are settled – which will come as a relief to Slave Lake taxpayers. A tax increase to cover a $240,000 budget shortfall would have been a nasty shock to the system.
For more on what was said on the topic at last week’s town and M.D. council meetings, see the ‘Council notebook’ reports in this edition.