At its Jan. 10 meeting, Donnelly village council received responses from the M.D. Smoky River regarding correspondence sent late last year.
The decisions from the M.D. have left Donnelly council disappointed and considering further communication with the neighbouring municipality.
The first issue Donnelly was trying to address is the creation of a development of a bi-municipal water utility bylaw to aid the Village in collecting utility arrears from M.D. residents who are hooked up to its utility system. The issue, CAO Matthew Ferris and Mayor Myrna Lanctot agree, was not clearly explained to the M.D. and possibly the cause of a negative response from the municipality.
“It is possible they do not fully understand our position,” says Lanctot.
“I don’t believe that the M.D. typically offers these services (sewage and water) to their ratepayers,” she adds.
Donnelly was pursuing an agreement with the M.D., because they cannot legally collect outstanding debt from M.D. residents hooked to their system without an agreement from the municipality.
“This was about risk mitigation in the future should we get an M.D. client that doesn’t pay, it would be a problem,” says Ferris.
“Further to that, it’s about not having the authority to operate in another municipality. We are trying to ensure we are prepared for future development,” he adds.
Donnelly council decided to first communicate with the local water coop to see if they’d assume the M.D. clients currently hooked up to the village’s water system. Lanctot and the deputy mayor will then reach out to the M.D. to ensure they fully understand what will happen because of their refusal to create an agreement.
There are currently seven M.D. residents hooked up to the village’s infrastructure.
“The Village of Donnelly does not have legal jurisdiction or legal authority to provide services outside of its corporate boundaries,” explains Ferris.
“The last thing we want to do is cut off M.D. residents, we are simply trying to ensure that the Village is protected and that future development in the MD still has access to piped water, and in turn have increased economic development potential,” he adds.
Village council intends on meeting with Reeve Robert Broch and the deputy reeve before making any further decisions to ensure its initial communication was clear to the M.D.
In addition, the M.D. was requested to fund half the cost of a fire hydrant installed to help service the new hemp plant and SARDA offices built on the outskirts of Donnelly. The hydrant cost of $11,541.50 was installed as close to the SARDA development within the Village by the M.D. border to help them with fire rating and allow them to be provided with service from the Village.
“The fire hydrant was placed to support both new buildings, as our council is of the opinion we need to promote and support growth,” says Lanctot.
“Growth and new business are the key to keeping our future in this region,” she adds.
Ferris says both SARDA and the hemp facility had expressed concerns about building code requirements triggering the need to have fire ponds and other fire mitigation measures and the shear costs were concerns they may delay development and slow the regional economic development.
“Proactively in May, we initially discussed the partnership with the M.D.,” says Ferris. “They asked for more time to consider it and said they would invite us back. The Village was not invited back until November. Between then and now, the Village was installing other water infrastructure and it was more cost efficient to install it while we had the ground dug up then come back so we made the decision to proceed to lower costs.”
The intention of the Village is to now approach SARDA for a portion of the hydrant cost. The anticipation of the Village was that the cost sharing would trigger a mutual support of growth at the Donnelly Corner development area.
“The development equally benefitted a resident in the M.D. and a resident in the village,” says Ferris.
“We thought it would be fair to be equal equity partners, even though our village has significantly less resources than the M.D.”