The City of Red Deer has worked out an official cost-sharing agreement with the county on many jointly used services.
So far, recreation and transit are among those covered under the initial Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF agreement), as is water and wastewater treatment, emergency and community services.
The next phase of discussions is expected to be more thorny as it will determine city and county financial responsibilities towards regional economic development and tourism — as well as funding for the public library, Westerner Park and the regional airport, which all involve third-party boards.
Policing, the homeless shelter, city museums and non-profits such as the Child Advocacy Centre and The Lending Cupboard are also on the list for future discussions.
“What we have done, so far, is not as challenging as the list of what we still have to do,” said Coun. Vesna Higham, who sits as a city representative on the regional collaborative committee along with Mayor Tara Veer and Coun. Lawrence Lee.
The agreements in the first phase of the ICF were largely built on pre-existed arrangements between the county and city that were sometimes expanded or modernized.
But Mayor Veer said, “I feel confident that we have created a forum in which we can have further discussions and continue to work together for the greater good of the region.”
Although both municipalities have a history of working co-operatively, Red Deer city councillors heard on Monday that this new Intermunicipal Collaborative Framework formalizes previous arrangements.
It also lives up to a provincial mandate that now requires all municipalities with common boundaries to adopt the new ICF process to ensure services are provided equitably and efficiently to residents of both municipalities.
Once the initial ICF is approved by both the city and county, as is expected before the April 1 provincial deadline, a new payment formula will be set.
They will stipulate how much the county must pay the city annually for its citizens’ use of city gyms and pools, for example — as well as how much the city must pay the county whenever it needs to call in additional county firefighting services.
“When you consider it, the advantages flow both ways,” said Higham.
By allowing county residents to use City of Red Deer pools or buses, the county doesn’t have to build pools or set up a transit system of its own. At the same time, the ICF funding formula ensures the county pays its share towards maintaining city infrastructure so that Red Deer city taxpayers aren’t solely on the hook for these shared-use facilities.
Red Deer County council also gave first reading to begin adopting the city/county ICF this month. Administration is recommending council adopt the bylaw at its March 23 meeting.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood stated: “Through our continued collaboration, we will only strengthen an already positive partnership with our neighbour. Working together, both efficiently and economically, will be a great benefit to our ratepayers.”
The ICF process was long and involved, taking about two years, including a nine-month gap because of the pandemic, said Higham.
She told city council this week there’s a need to give third parties, such as the airport authority and Westerner Park board, a seat at the negotiating table for the next phase of ICF discussions. So far, the government ICF process does not accommodate this, but City of Red Deer representatives are pushing for future third party inclusion.