Wheatland funding opens door to regional cooperation
The Town of Drumheller recently received funding from Wheatland County to help pay for Drumheller’s infrastructure services their residents utilize, a step towards increasing regional cooperation between Drumheller and surrounding counties that council has been working to achieve.
Town council accepted $17,974 from Wheatland County as part of a regional infrastructure services program, which was initialized this year. The funding amount was based on calculations of Wheatland’s total population divided by the service area population, and for Drumheller, Wheatland says, this equates to 2.4 per cent of their residents using Drumheller’s facilities. Drumheller’s portion is from a total $750,000 funding pool.
“They’re recognizing that we do perform services for the people they’re responsible for,” said Mayor Terry Yemen. “There’s no formal policy in place for them to do this.”
The agreement now in place specifies that the funding be allocated to infrastructure services. As there are numerous infrastructure services provided by the town, the ambiguous language of the agreement allows the benefit of having the funds allocated in a number of different ways, but that same ambiguity has left some question marks for council.
They're recognizing that we do perform services for the people they're responsible for... there's no formal policy in place for them to do this." Mayor Terry Yemen
“The word infrastructure itself means different things to different people,” said councillor Jay Garbutt, who voted in opposition due to the agreement's ambiguity.
“I didn’t think the agreement was specific enough… The fact that council chose to accept the agreement as presented means that of course we’re grateful for the resources but we still have to go back and do some work with Wheatland to see what their expectations are and how they arrived at that number.”
The agreement between Wheatland and Drumheller opens the door for further collaboration between the two neighbouring municipalities, said Mayor Terry Yemen, who explained the two plan on discussion cooperative partnerships in order to enhance tourism such as installing run-
ning water and flush toilets at tourist attractions like the Hoo Doos.
Council and the mayor’s office plan to work with the town’s two other neighbouring counties, Starland and Kneehill, to reach regional agreements, as well.
“We expect that in the next year or two we’ll have similar agreements with all our regional partners,” said councillor Garbutt. “It’s the beginning of what we hope to be agreements with all our surrounding county partners because the province of Alberta has pretty much laid down their expectations, saying they expect this level of collaboration, regional cooperation, and asset sharing to start to occur.”
But Mayor Yemen reinforced that Wheatland’s decision to share funds with Drumheller was voluntary on their part, and the other surrounding counties are not formally required to do so.
“It’s in their hands. Certainly, we work with the other MDs (municipal districts) and when we talk about joint part- nerships like water we want to work together. We received outstanding support from them on the Badlands Community Facility,” said Yemen.
“We’ve been in conversations with our regional partners as well about our unique situation here in Drumheller,” said councillor Garbutt.
“We are not actually within a county, but we are surrounded by three. If we were inside a county, you bet that the county would contribute on an annual basis towards the operating costs of a great many things that we do here, because their citizens would be benefitting from it.”
This is the first year Wheatland County has contributed funds to Drumheller for infrastructure, and plans to make annual payments for the next four years.
Mayor Terry Yemen