By Cole Parkinson
With the proposed Taber Irrigation District and St. Mary River Irrigation District merger well underway, the Municipal District of Taber had to decide if they wanted to cast their vote in favour or not.
With the municipality able to cast a vote on the amalgamation, the issue was brought forward to M.D. council’s regular meeting on Sept. 28.
Coun. Brian Brewin declared a conflict and left council chambers before discussions began.
“We have a vote because we have some water rights somewhere on some land,” explained Reeve Merrill Harris.
It was also explained council did have some SMRID water rights as well.
“In any instance, we did receive one ballot and it was the directions and instructions incorporated us providing that to the TID office,” added CAO Arlos Crofts. “From a working relationship perspective, the M.D. works fairly positively with both irrigation districts. On that level, there is no preference one way or the other, administratively speaking. It is difficult to provide a recommendation on a matter such as this.”
Council also touched on the relationships they have with each of the districts.
“I think we have a good working relationship with all three irrigation districts in our municipality — that being Bow River, TID and SMRID. This is a particular concern with TID and SMRID,” added Harris.
Each councillor was able to state their opinion on the potential merger.
“I don’t know how many other councils have been approached by ratepayers, but I have been approached by a number of them asking them what my opinion is. So I’ve given them my opinion, but I don’t know that I want to share it here because I don’t want to sway anybody one way or the other,” stated Coun. John Turcato. “I agree with you, we’ve had really good working relationships, not just with the Horsefly Spillway and that’s another one we had to deal with both irrigation districts. It’s been very satisfactory and because of that, myself I don’t see a benefit in merging the two. I know there’s supposed to be cost savings, but I don’t know that affects the ratepayer of these two irrigation districts in a beneficial way.”
With TID more locally available, there was some concern about losing that availability moving forward if the two merged.
“One of the benefits of keeping it local is we do have a very good relationship with TID on the projects that are inside the municipality. We’ve never really had a yearly meeting like we do with TID with SMRID. I don’t know if we lose that local hometown feeling if they do amalgamate,” stated Harris.
“I think there is value in having that working relationship. I guess it’s just wondering what that looks like moving forward — if we would be afforded the same type of camaraderie with boards and open communication,” added Deputy Reeve Jen Crowson.
Others agreed the working relationship with TID was a major positive for the M.D.
“SMRID has more irrigation acres so they’re probably more so wanting to join, not sure about TID. We do have good working relationships with TID,” added Coun. Murray Reynolds.
Council also asked what happens to the staff of both districts if they amalgamate.
“When you have these amalgamations like this, what would happen to the employees of TID and the office here in town? That’s a concern as well for myself. If it’s efficiency, you can’t speak against it, but it also affects others,” added Turcato.
Council also asked the opinion of Brian Peers, director of Municipal Lands and Leases.
“I did go to the open house and talked to a few people — mostly the board members of the TID. I was surprised to hear that it was, it’s what I understand, it was TID that initiated the amalgamation talks. One of the main reasons was for the expansion purposes where the water is going to be, where they’re going to be and where they’re planning to do some of their improvements on storage and reservoir capacity improvements. That was just going to make the expansion much simpler as far as where the land is and where the water is,” he responded. “I just don’t know their systems well enough to comment. I see the efficiencies that could bring probably in time.”
A motion to authorize CAO Arlos Crofts to act as agent for the corporation of the M.D. of Taber to vote in favour of the amalgamation was carried 4-1 with Turcato opposing the motion.