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Didsbury council questions proposed school agreement

Document referred to committee to address outstanding questions including the potential financial costs to the Town of Didsbury and whether provincial government is downloading costs onto municipalities
MVT stock Chinook's Edge building front
File photo/MVP Staff

DIDSBURY – Town council has decided not to immediately approve a proposed new 30-page joint use and planning agreement with Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD), instead sending the document to committee to address outstanding questions including the potential financial costs to the municipality.

The move came by way of motion at a recent regularly scheduled council meeting.

The Municipal Government Act requires municipalities and school boards operating within the boundaries of the municipally to enter into and maintain a joint use and planning agreement.

The proposed agreement between the Town of Didsbury and CESD came before council with a recommendation that it be approved.

The agreement deals with the joint use of municipal and school facilities, including the Didsbury Aquaplex and the town arena.

“This agreement replaces any previous agreement and includes the requirement to address matters related to the acquisition, servicing, development, use, transfer, and disposal of municipal reserve, school reserve, and municipal and school reserve lands,” CAO Ethan Gorner said in a briefing note to council.

Administration has had legal counsel review the agreement, council heard.

“Both administration and legal are happy with the current version of the agreement and are recommending it for approval," he said.

During council discussion of the proposed agreement, deputy mayor Curt Engel voiced concerns.

“In this agreement, are we assuming any financial cost associated with this agreement?” said Engel. “In short, is the provincial government downloading costs onto the municipality? Is there any costs associated with this document that the province should be paying? That’s my question, are they downloading costs?”

Before signing any new agreement with CESD, Coun. Joyce McCoy said council should be presented with information about past town and resident fundraising contributions to local school facilities.

Mayor Rhonda Hunter said, “This is the time to take concerns forward. I think it is worth some push back and some discussions. I think there is input council would like to see.”

The town currently has arrangements with Didsbury schools, called School Use Agreements, that outline the fees that the town charges for student rentals at municipal facilities, council heard.

Municipalities have until June 2025 to have the new joint use planing agreements in place, council heard.

Instead of voting on the proposed motion to accept the agreement, council passed a motion that the joint use and planning agreement with Chinook’s Edge be referred to the committee of the whole for further consideration and for more information to be brought forward.

The 11,000-student CESD includes schools in Didsbury, Carstairs, Sundre and Olds.

All council members attended the June 27 council meeting.

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