By Cole Parkinson
A new government grant has been presented to both Municipal District of Taber and Town of Taber councils for a joint application study for potential economic development in the region.
During the M.D.’s regular meeting on Nov. 28, councillors had the chance to discuss their opinions on moving forward with the application process.
“We were approached by the Town of Taber Economic Development to participate in an application for CARES (Community and Regional Economic Support) grant which is funded by Alberta Regional Economic Development. So in the discussion with the town, what they would like to do is study the potential for economic development in the Taber area. With respect to how this aligns with some of our current policies, our strategic plan currently has economic sustainability and diversity. The grant application is for $125,000 with 50 per cent of it funded by the two partners,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D. of Taber.
“Development of this type of information I think will be important for future programs and future projects, including potential use for new instruments that are included in the Municipal Government Act that include offsite levies for future development for water and sewer delivery areas in proximity to the town.”
With the application consisting of half of the cost of the study, the Town of Taber and the M.D. would each kick in $30,000 while the final $2500 would come from Community Futures Chinook in-kind contributions.
The overall goal of the project will be for the two municipalities to establish a formalized economic development strategy for the region.
While this is a new study, it isn’t the first economic study that has crossed through M.D. chambers.
Due to the past few that have been passed through, some on council were worried about sending this one through only for it to be pushed to the side and never touched again.
“I hate to be the negative one here but it seems to me that we do so many studies. We do them and then they get put on the shelf and it’s never looked at again. Through Joint Economic Development I think it is something that can be moved forward as long as there is value to it. Seems like we are always in a hurry to do studies but at the end of the day, what do we do with that study? It’s $50,000 here and $60,000 there but it adds up. What value have we got at the end of the day? Don’t get me wrong economic development is always important,” said Brian Brewin, reeve for the M.D. of Taber.
“I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying to make sure we have a plan to go forward with the results or suggestions.”
Another concern brought forward by council was the past history of the CARES grant and why this was never brought forward in the past.
“We’ve never made an application, this is a relatively new process,” said Krizsan.
The CARES program is funded through the Alberta government who allocated $30 million over two years to promote economic growth in Albertan communities.
General reaction about moving forward with the application was split between the councillors as many didn’t feel they had enough information.
Another issue that had council worried was the incredibly fast approaching deadline to apply which was on Nov. 30.
“He is working (Kirk Hughes, development and community safety officer) really hard with their new economic development officer, he hasn’t been there very long either. Sometimes when we have new people we have to spend some new money on doing some of these projects that we may feel we have done,” said Tamara Miyanaga, councillor for Division 4. “I know it’s a lot of money but there is money to be gained by doing it.”
The proposal the M.D. received had only included the immediate Taber area and excluded the many towns that encompass the M.D. of Taber.
Coun. Miyanaga felt that it was imperative for the study to include not only the smaller towns in the M.D. but the Chamber of Commerce as well.
“I’d like to know where the M.D. of Taber gets to fit in on this scope. There is merit to this, I think you should include the chamber, I think that would be remiss and I also feel that it would be remiss not to include Barnwell and Vauxhall. We’re too small, we are 16,000 all of us so I wonder if there is a way to change the scope, if it’s limited to two municipalities,” said Coun. Miyanaga. “If we were in favour of it, we could communicate to the town that our scope is much more than local. They are obviously aware that this makes for easy partners and they’ve done the leg work.”
While the council wanted to see changes to the original proposal, some councillors were still hesitant to push it through.
“I’m not sure why it’s such short notice. It always bothers me when you’re put under the gun, I just don’t know enough about it,” said John Turcato, councillor for Division 2.
The M.D. administration recommended to participate in the study as they are hopeful it will give them information on regional economic studies.
“These types of studies aren’t conducted in isolation. They are pretty broad and they have to be in order to be accurate,” said Krizsan.
Coun. Miyanaga made the motion to enter into a joint application with the Town of Taber for CARES grant to study potential development in the Taber region with consideration given to not just Taber but the M.D. of Taber and chamber.
Council voted in favour of passing the motion with Coun. Murray Reynolds originally not voting either way until eventually voting in favour.