District of Sparwood Mayor Cal McDougall. Alexandra Heck/The Free Press

Elkford, Sparwood consider withdrawing from RDEK planning function

The districts of Elkford and Sparwood are requesting to withdraw from the RDEK planning services, as they feel it does not provide them any benefit.

Sparwood Mayor Cal McDougall says that his municipality is paying $40,000 a year for services that they never utilize, because they have their own planning department.

“We don’t get anything out of the planning department,” said McDougall, explaining that more rural areas that don’t have planners, like Jaffray and Elko see the benefits of RDEK planning, not Sparwood.

He says the municipality has been addressing the issue with the RDEK for a number of years, and hope to have their proposal to withdraw considered at the next RDEK board meeting in January.

McDougall says that if they do not withdraw entirely, another option would be to have their portion of the planning fees reduced.

Currently, Sparwood pays 31 per cent of the planning function, and the mayor says that they would propose to have that reduced to 10 per cent. “We would like to negotiate a different formula,” said McDougall.

In the event of Elkford and Sparwood withdrawing, McDougall says other municipalities would have to pay more to compensate.

CAO of the District of Sparwood, Terry Melcer says that in 2017, the municipality paid $39,401.00 for the planning function.

She says that none of the municipalities receive any planning services from the RDEK, only the rural areas that don’t have planners on staff. However, their portions allow representatives to be able to vote on planning items at RDEK meetings.

“I think there’s value to having a voice at the table, it’s just, at what price?” she asked. “We would consider negotiating some lesser fee in order to maintain our vote,” said Melcer.

District of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher could not comment extensively on the proposal, but said that they are meeting with the RDEK to negotiate this week.

“Nothing is written in stone yet,” he said. “We’re still in discussions.”

“It’s a function that we don’t really get any benefit of,” said McKerracher. “So what we want to do is negotiate a better rate.”

“We want to pay less for a service we don’t get,” said the Mayor of Elkford.

The Districts of Elkford and Sparwood will not get to vote on the decision, as they are putting forward the request.

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