By Cole Parkinson
With talks of expanding Highway 3 to a twinned highway stalled, Municipal District of Taber council has started discussing whether or not they want to continue with the development association.
During council’s regular meeting on July 17, Reeve Brian Brewin brought the discussion to the M.D. councillor’s to get their opinions on how they want to proceed with the project.
With Brewin being the M.D. representative on the Highway 3 Twinning Development Association, he gave council an update on how they hope to move forward.
“One of the challenges we are having with Highway 3 Development Association is, where do we go with it in the future? There are some that think we have done as much as we can, as far as lobbying. We made a commitment it would be a one-time funding in order to do this,” said Brewin.
In the development association’s 2018-2022 strategic plan, they state the mission of the endeavour is “to collaboratively and actively support the completion of twinning Highway 3 from the B.C. border to Medicine Hat as an integral part of the evolving multi-modal provincial transportation system.”
As with any other project this size, the biggest concern with all involved is the cost and where the funds will come from.
The association has also run into a hurdle with both major cities pulling their funding from the project.
“We have two challenges —both cities have told us they aren’t interested in continuing funding it, so Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. They said they are interested in it but no funding and in a way I can see Lethbridge’s point. They have a twinned highway coming from both directions coming in. Having said that, the twinning also benefits them with Cavendish and everything else coming,” continued Brewin.
He pointed to the development that has progressed further west on Highway 3 between Coaldale and Lethbridge as an example of what could happen if the same happened past Taber.
“Look at the development between Lethbridge and Coaldale, that’s what amazes me. You look back and none of that stuff was there until the twinning came. If you build it, they will come,” explained Brewin.
While council was in favour of continuing their support, the funding issue continued to be a concern.
“I wouldn’t want to see this fall by the wayside but it’s a long-term plan so how much lobbying goes into it. When we talk about funding, where is it going to come from?” asked Coun. Jen Crowson.
In terms of the M.D.’s contribution, they fund 25 cents per capita while the two cities were maxed at $5,000 each.
Brewin agreed that they should continue with the association but finding funds are essential in moving forward.
“It’s fine to say ‘let’s keep doing it’ but it does cost us money,” he said.
Other councillors touched on the likelihood of getting the twinning project finished if the group disbanded.
“If you stop lobbying, the chances of getting it are less. You have to keep pushing until it’s done,” said Coun. John Turcato.
The group has also had trouble finding people to run the administration side of things as M.D. CAO Derrick Krizsan and M.D. administrative clerk Candice Robison originally did the work.
Since then they have hired a few different individuals but none have stuck for the long-term.
“Our one administrator left us but we did hire another individual but she has informed us she will get us through until September and then she will be leaving. We really are at a transition point right now and I’d like to know if you feel there is value in the Highway 3 to continue lobbying,” explained Brewin.
One suggestion made in regard to administration work was to split it up between all participating parties. Brewin stated he would bring back the thoughts of M.D. council to the Highway 3 board in the fall and it was accepted as information by council.