The future of the Village of Rycroft is in the hands of its residents. The community of just over 600 people will vote next month on whether or not it should keep its status as a village or become a hamlet.
The state of the village was analyzed by a team of representatives from the municipality, the MD of Spirit River, Alberta Municipal Affairs, and other municipal officials from across the province in 2015. As a result, a “viability plan” was created, which includes two options to make sure the village stays strong and sustainable.
“The main reason for initiating a viability review is to find solutions to address issues impacting the sustainable future of a municipality,” explains Municipal Affairs Press Secretary Lauren Arscott. “For example, these issues could include loss of assessment and property taxes in the community, decline in population or lack of growth and development in the community.”
The first option is for Rycroft to remain an incorporated municipality, following a list of 64 recommendations made by the minister and the Viability Review Team. They include improving communication with residents, updating bylaws, working with other communities in the region, and reviewing financial plans.
The other option is to dissolve and become part of the MD of Spirit River. A public meeting for residents to discuss the choices and the viability plan is coming up on May 7th, and residents will vote on May 16th.
Rycroft mayor Diahann Potrebenko has mixed emotions about the decision. In a public post made this week, Potrebenko admits there are valid concerns about how the village was being managed and how financial responsibilities weren’t being met.
“It only makes sense for the final decision over whether or not to remain a Village is in the hands of residents,” she writes. “Talking with residents over the past few weeks, it has become clear to me that there are still some trust issues between residents, Council and Administration about exactly what we can do differently, and whether or not we can afford to be viable?”
The mayor says the village has already addressed more than half of the recommendations from the province, and plans to follow them all.