Municipal officials look for ‘better ways’

Nearly 90 Alberta communities are having a tough time staying afloat and 44 villages no longer have the required population of 300.

Nearly 90 Alberta communities are having a tough time staying afloat and 44 villages no longer have the required population of 300.

It is against this backdrop that 275 representatives from urban municipalities across the province gathered in Red Deer to look at whether there are better ways to run communities.

Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) president Lloyd Bertschi said governance has become an increasingly important issue in the province, especially in smaller communities that are struggling to provide the kinds of services residents expect.

Two-thirds of the province’s communities in trouble reported difficulties getting the staff they need.

Bertschi said after an AUMA conference last year it was clear that governance, of the way that communities are run, was an issue on a lot of minds.

Overflow crowds filled two workshops on the issue at that conference.

“We asked the question, ‘If we continue to do the same things as we are today for the next 10 years will your municipality be sustainable?’ And nobody put their hand up,” he said.

In a January survey of 319 municipal officials, half felt the status quo would not be effective.

Respondents were also asked what the big issues for their community were. Building and maintaining infrastructure was by far the leader, picked by 61 per cent. Funding and finances, and water issues followed at 26 per cent each.

A number of international experts were brought in to discuss how to handle local government issues at the two-day provincial summit at the north end Holiday Inn.

The AUMA plans to gather input and prepare a series of recommendations.

Among the options are creating more regional-style governments.

Red Deer city Councillor Buck Buchanan said the summit gives municipalities a forum to develop a common approach to the issues facing them.

Almost all communities are wrestling with issues around sustainability.

“It’s tough for municipalities, and rural communities also, to be able to (offer) all the things that people expect to have in this day and age,” he said.

The summit continues today.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com