Residents in the Town of Manning have overwhelmingly voted to remain as a town instead of dissolving into the County of Northern Lights. Out of 367 votes cast on October 28th and 29th, roughly 93 per cent wanted to see the town remain viable as it currently stands.
Manning Chief Administrative Advisor, April Doll, says the vote was triggered after the town council conducted a viability review, following a massive dip into financial overdraft.
“We, last year in February, were into our overdraft by about $800,000,” she says. “They did not think that it (the review) would go to a vote but [rather] we would do the viability, we would do our infrastructure assessment, and then… we got a letter from Municipal Affairs that they would go to a vote.”
The Town of Manning held two municipal affairs meetings prior to an open house on the 23rd of October to let the public know what happened. Doll adds despite the council’s worries, the response from the public was very positive.
“I think the public realized that we are viable and that we are wanting at least to give it a good try.”
Had the town decided to dissolve into the County of Northern Lights, the transition would have to have been completed by January 1st. It also would have seen two councillors removed from municipal council, and moved to County council. The County would then have taken over budgeting for the town as well as any logistics going forward.
Currently, according to Doll, the Town’s council is compiling information to send to Minister of Municipal Affairs, Tracy Allard, who will in turn, give the town five-year directives in order to remain viable. Doll adds a 10-year capital plan to fix local infrastructure must also be completed.
Doll says she chalks the cause of council going into overdraft up to miscommunication between departments on budget concerns.
“I think, honestly, it was misinformation given to council to do projects and where we thought [something] was in the budget still, it was not in the budget,” she says. “When the CAO says [something] is in the budget and really we don’t have the money to spend in the first place, it’s not in the budget.”
If the town does not prove itself to be independently viable within a five-year time frame, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will then have to call for another viability review and vote.