The new deal in Lac La Biche County
Thursday, Sep 15, 2011 06:00 am
Lac La Biche County Mayor Peter Kirylchuk prides himself as being a man of honour. He also respects other people who work for the well-being of others.
But even he knows the fundamental rule of any business deal is: "Get it in writing."
The mayor says the tireless work that local MLA Ray Danlyuk has done to help create a plan that will keep revenues flowing into Lac La Biche County is a multi-faceted creation with many great things for the community.
But regardless of his respect for the man, Kirylchuk knows that each promise in the new agreement will have to be fully documented.
"They will be written into an agreement. It can't be any other way. It can't be just a handshake or just through a conversation," he said Monday night. "This has to be notarized properly. If this isn't set in stone it would be very easy for someone to forget or miss something and we would be the ones who would be heart by that."
A finalized document, complete with actual dollar amounts, projections and timelines is still being constructed by provincial government officials and senior Lac La Biche County administrators.
Size doesn't matter
In general, the new plan, which has already been approved in principal by the provincial government, is a good deal for Lac La Biche, said Kirylchuk.
"I think it's probably the best arrangement possible under the circumstances," he said. "I would say it is a good deal and it will be very exciting for our municipality."
And while a large portion of the municipality's land mass — 11,600 square kilometres — will be replaced with a much smaller piece of property (the new area south of Conklin is just 1,500 square kilometres) the mayor says it is still a welcome addition.
"The area is much smaller, but to me, that is immaterial. It all depends on what development will take place in this new area in the future."
As to exactly how much tax assessment there currently is in the new area and what the potential could be, Kirylchuk isn't completely sure.
Although he estimates the area generates approximately $5 million in real tax dollars right now, "I would like to see some hard and fast numbers come out of government on that. There's been a lot of numbers that have been thrown about."
Good for business
Aside from a promise that funding already coming to the county from the air weapons range will not be reduced, Kirlychuk is also pleased that the new agreement includes a provision for a split mill rate.
It's a unique and rare opportunity to build a healthy local economic base while utilizing the tax base of industrial businesses, he said.
"I think we are one of only a few municipalities in the province that have that kind of an arrangement," said the mayor. "The possibilities are huge."
Before the split rate, any taxation increases to industrial users within the community were also assessed to smaller retail and service businesses.
"This is a great thing now for our commercial folks," the mayor said.
Danyluk says don't worry about funds
But after just a few days to digest the agreement's main selling points, concerns are being heard about the funding the community will be receiving .
Following Tuesday's meeting with Lac La BIche councillors, just two days after the Legislative cabinet members approved the agreement, MLA Danlyuk said the funding will be there.
"You will be compensated on the shortfall, and there is the potential for the future," said Danyluk, explaining that while the $17 million generated from the bombing range's industrial assessment won't be coming to the county anymore, there will be funding options available.
A five-year funding plan will see the county receive a total of $15 million from the City of Cold Lake once they take possession of the range. During the same time, the province will look at 'topping up' funding for local projects.
"There could be added compensation for government projects that Lac La Biche County has on the go," he said. "We will be shoring up the amount … you are going to have it match up to that $17 million"
The funding assistance is expected to last for only a few years as the new land area, which Danyluk and local council members are still calling 'Area B', is expected to see large industrial growth from the oil and gas sector.
The agreement is expected to officially begin on January 1 next year.
Mayor Kirylchuk hopes to see the finalized agreement in the very near future.
"I don't think it is going to take long. I think this will all be done very soon," said the mayor.
Check the Post's facebook page to see the latest press release from Lac La Biche County about Tuesday's meeting.