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City plans to talk amalgamation with rural neighbors

Amalgamation could be in the cards for the city and other communities in the surrounding region.

The city is moving forward with plans to approach the councils of Wembley, Beaverlodge, Hythe, Sexsmith and the County of Grande Prairie to start a conversation about creating a more unified governance policy.

Mayor Bill Given says Strathcona County is one example the city is looking to as an example of a municipality with a large urban area and a large rural area.

“In their case Sherwood Park, which has a population of about 70,000 people, is under one local government with a considerable rural area. There’s also a lot that came forward from our symposium that we held last fall. There was a lot of discussion about different models that are happening across Canada, and the different steps that municipalities are taking to explore those policies.”

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There was some question as to why the M.D. of Greenview was left out of the proposal.

Given says communities were chosen with their existing working relationships and cultural connections in mind.

“We know that people by and large live their lives in that region. We have people that live in one municipality and work in another. We have people that live in one municipality and recreate in another, and we all worship work, play, and trying to help one another out, so that would seem to make logical sense.”

Exactly what topics would be covered under amalgamation will have to be established down the road, as Given says right now the conversation needs to start with what’s best for all communities and residents in the region.

“I think it has to start from a basis of what can we do better, how can we better serve the residents of all of the communities in the region, and how can we better rationalize our local government structures to meet the way people are living their lives today.”

Exploring options for unified governance in the region was something city council laid out is a priority when they created their Strategic Plan for 2015-2018.

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