Councillors want full disclosure on impact of possible Cremona dissolution
Cremona residents could be looking at special tax rates, less representation, and impacts to infrastructure should the village dissolve into a Mountain View County hamlet, according to county councillors.
During its first formal discussion on the village’s impending dissolution study, county councillors were adamant during last week’s council meeting that residents be armed with all the information before making a decision on whether to remain a village or dissolve into the county.
In February, a petition containing over 160 signatures was delivered to Alberta Municipal Affairs by Jen Thompson and Colleen Oughton, two Cremona business partners who – along with others in the community - have expressed concerns over decisions council and village administration have made in the past.
With the petition for a dissolution study deemed sufficient, the finances, services, and governance of Cremona will now be examined by Municipal Affairs.
The study findings and any input provided by residents are provided to the minister. The minister considers and determines whether additional public consultation is required before deciding whether to recommend dissolution to the provincial government cabinet.
Both Reeve Bruce Beattie and Division 2 Counc. Trish McKean said a plebiscite is typically undertaken before any recommendation is made.
“So even if the study shows one way over another, it’s literally up to the residents to decide,” said McKean, whose division includes Cremona.
The county has thus far not been asked to provide any information to Municipal Affairs or Minister Doug Griffiths, said county CAO Tony Martens.
Beattie said it was clear that the county has a role to play in the process.
“It has to be made clear by the county what the impact would be,” Beattie said.
Martens said that judging by the letter the Municipal Affairs minister sent to Beattie dated March 26 in which he confirmed the study was being undertaken, there’s only one outcome if dissolution is chosen.
“It’s pretty clear if Cremona dissolves it becomes a hamlet in Mountain View County,” said Martens.
Div. 6 Coun. Paddy Munro said Cremona residents would be wrong “if they think for a minute their taxes are going to be the same as the rest of the county.”
A special rate would apply, he said.
If dissolved into the county, Cremona residents would become part of the county’s Division 2, which means one county councillor is their only connection to the council, he said.
“They run the risk of losing representation,” Munro said.
Div. 1 Coun. Kevin Good said there may have been misinformation or unrealistic expectations involved when the petition was formed, adding he thought the situation could have been avoided.
“Make sure the province spells out how they will be represented and how infrastructure will be funded,” Good told fellow councillors and administration.
If there’s capital improvements that need to be done if the village is dissolved, Martens said the county needs to be lobbying for funding.
“I think what we would do if this looks like this is coming the county’s way, we need to fight for dollars,” Martens said.
There will be time to prepare for the input the county will give into the process, said Div. 7 Coun. Al Kemmere.
“This does not happen overnight,” said Kemmere.
Municipal Affairs has already stated the provincial election will delay the study.
There’s also four other municipal dissolution studies ahead of Cremona’s in the que, said Kemmere “so that may affect the timing.”
Beattie concluded his comments by saying “our role is to protect our ratepayers in the county of Mountain View.”