The City of Cold Lake says they are looking to get some time in with the province to talk about the future of the ID 349 agreement, citing concerns of potential changes that might harshly affect the city’s financial stability.
“We arrived at the agreement for revenue from ID 349 as a solution to ensure the City’s ongoing viability,” Mayor Craig Copeland said. “We’ve been informed that the agreement will continue for 2017 and that the government has had talks with a number of municipalities in the region about the agreement’s future beyond that time. The City of Cold Lake relies on this revenue for 40 per cent of our budget, however, we have not had a chance to voice our concerns in person.”
Copeland notes that in order to obtain the ID 349 revenue, the City went through a government-ordered municipal inspection after passing a notice of dissolution. In order to ensure the ID 349 agreement could take place, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo received Crown land as compensation for land it gave to the County of Lac La Biche. This land transfer was calculated with the intention that it be revenue neutral. The MD of Bonnyville also receives money under the deal for the maintenance of the road to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.
“It is frustrating to see our municipal neighbors concerned about ID 349 once again, and not supporting the fact that the City of Cold Lake, which is home to 4 Wing, is finally a stable, financially sound community and a strong regional partner,” Copeland said. “After the last provincial election, neighbouring municipalities capitalized on the change in government and lobbied the province to change our sustainability deal for their own benefit.”
The city says the agreement surrounding ID 349 was transitional in nature, with the intention that the improvement district would transition to the City of Cold Lake, and the City has undertaken long-term planning as a result.
“We thought our neighbours were happy with the deal because it would ensure the city would not dissolve into the Municipal District of Bonnyville and that no land would be taken away from the MD to connect our urban area to ID 349,” Copeland said. “But we’ve received no assurances that the sustainability funding from ID 349 will continue to come to the City beyond 2017, and so we need to know what’s on the table. We need to know to what degree the agreement can be altered and what options council needs to consider to ensure our residents live in a strong, vibrant municipality that can continue to tackle its infrastructure needs.”
It is the City of Cold Lake’s understanding that officials from Alberta Municipal Affairs have met with a number of municipalities in the region to talk about ID 349 revenue. Some share municipal boundaries with ID 349, while others are far removed.
“If we are looking at an agreement for the entire region, I think it’s time we sat down with the government and had a serious look at the creation of one or two new counties in our area to better balance the assessment disparity,” Copeland said. “A two-county solution would create strong communities for all and end the finger pointing by elected officials. Urban and rural municipalities need to amalgamate so that property tax is fair and we can build vibrant communities for all residents.”
It is unclear what the government’s intentions are in regards to the agreement, but the city says they have received no assurances or indication of which direction the agreement will go after 2017. Revenue from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range is used to fund a wide variety of projects since the agreement was signed in 2012, including Cold Lake Transit, the bulk of the grants to local non-profits and the majority of the capital projects for water, sewer and recreational infrastructure.
“Cold Lake is tied to ID 349 through the sustainability agreement and through the fact that we are home to 4 Wing Cold Lake, which services and provides access to the Air Weapons Range,” Copeland said. “We need to be a meaningful part of any discussions surrounding the agreement. I don’t know many households, businesses, or municipalities who could survive a 41-per-cent cut to their budget, so I don’t think this is an unreasonable ask.”