Over the past several weeks both the Town Council and the MD Council have been struggling to work through two of our major agreements. These agreements largely define services, and ultimately determines who pays for what.
There has been some frustration on both sides of the fence as we try to work through our differences. One of the major issues the MD had with the current agreements was that they wanted to have more input, basically a say in what we are doing, and they wanted to understand what they were paying for, and what they were not paying for. For the Town we wanted fair pay for services we provided to all residents of both the MD and Town, and a recognition that a portion of the industry and tax base, which exists in the Region, has a direct financial impact on Town of Slave Lake tax payers. Both sides are willing to work together and at the end of the day we both want something fair for both parties involved.
One of the biggest obstacle to getting to that was getting both parties to the table, which has been a struggle.
But Last weekend that changed, the two newly elected councils got together, at the Town Office, to begin working through those agreements.
Both sides wanted a clearer picture of what the future looks like, and everybody wanted to make sure we cleaned up the past. In the past we have used words like mediation and arbitration.
After talking with the Reeve prior to the meeting, we ultimately decided to try and facilitate it together. We lead our councils through both documents and laid out the foundation and history of how we got where we are now. Additionally, we identified issues on both sides. Those issues were dissected, and debated, so all members of council could have a clear understanding on them.
In the end we tried an exercise where we separated into different rooms to analyze the information that was before us. When we came back together, we each took a leap of faith and laid all of our cards out on the table. It was a very open, honest and transparent discussion. What we realized is that we weren’t very far apart.
What both councils decided was to task our CAO’s to start revising the documents. We believe that we have about 10 per cent of the agreements to debate. We plan to hold a follow up meeting at the end of the month. I will be honest we are excited to see this issue getting resolved, and both Council’s moving forward together.
As part of our discussions this weekend the MD also committed to “settling up the past” by paying the outstanding invoices by the end of this month. The Town has also committed to sending over additional information to make this possible.
The Town of Slave Lake feels this was a critical step in making a solid and lasting foundation for our relationship moving forward.
I want to close by thanking both council’s for their commitment to this process. They gave up 15 hours of their life on Saturday and Sunday right after the election. All councillors understood that this was a priority, and knew we had to resolve these issues quickly. Our discussions were very informative, open, honest and respectful. I appreciate Reeve Kerrik’s help in making the process possible, and our administration staff who worked so hard behind the scene’s to make it all possible.
Although we are not all the way there, I can say we are pretty close to resolving these agreements, and the future looks a little more certain for both parties. The MD continues to be our great neighbours and friends, and we all realize we can accomplish more working together than we can ever do alone.