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Cost, timeline unknown for regional transit commission shut down

The board of directors for the regional transit commission St. Albert is a part of have approved a plan to dissolve the organization, but the outstanding costs and an estimated closure date is still unknown.
The EMTSC board of directors has approved a plan to wind-down the Commission, but St. Albert still doesn't know how much the municipality might have to pay as part of the dissolution process. FILE/Photo

The board of directors for the regional transit commission which includes St. Albert has approved a plan to dissolve the organization, but the outstanding costs and an estimated closure date are still unknown.

During a meeting on Jan. 19, the board of the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission (EMTSC) heard from staff that before any financial liabilities for the member municipalities can be addressed, the commission needs to sign and execute settlement agreements with two municipalities that started the withdrawal process last month. 

As The Gazette previously reported, the EMTSC board directed its administration to begin shutting down after the City of Edmonton and Town of Devon voted in December to withdraw from the commission. Edmonton's withdrawal made the regional transit system financially and operationally unviable.

Commission CEO Paul Jankowski told the board on Jan. 19 meetings have been set between commission staff and the administrations of Edmonton and Devon to develop the settlement agreements, and executing the agreements is the "fundamental predecessor" to dissolve the organization.

Jankowski said although the settlement agreements are the first steps in the dissolution process, work is also underway to shut down the commission's operations, including the recent termination of four of the EMTSC's nine staff members; an inventory of assets and an assessment of options to dispose of them; and an assessment of options to deal with the EMTSC's office lease agreement in downtown Edmonton, which has four years remaining.

"EMTSC staff will continue to provide EMTSC wind-down plan progress updates and relevant decision points to the board in keeping with the board calendar, and dissolution process time frames," reads the plan presented to the board during the Jan. 19 meeting.

Coun. Wes Brodhead, EMTSC board chair, told The Gazette the main challenge of dissolving the commission is doing so as quickly as legally possible. 

"My hope is sooner rather than later and I know that's everybody else's desire as well," Brodhead said, adding that he'd like to see the process be complete before the end of April.

"To expedite the dissolution of the commission will require a change in the governance bylaw, because currently the governance bylaws says that there needs to be a 90-day period between the motion [to dissolve] and the actual resolution," he said. "We'd like to shorten that up, but we can't do that until we've got a full understanding of the agreements with Edmonton and Devon."

Board meetings will continue for the next two to three months as staff wind down the commission, Jankowski said. The next is scheduled for Feb. 2.

Wait and see

St. Albert city council was scheduled during its Jan. 10 meeting to discuss a motion put forward by Coun. Sheena Hughes in December that, if passed, would initiate a separate attempt to dissolve the EMTSC.  However, Hughes postponed the discussion until after she was able to see the plan presented to the commission's board on Jan. 19.

In an interview on Jan. 19, Hughes said she plans to hold off on bringing her motion forward for council debate, as she wants to see what the timeline to dissolve will look like after the settlement agreements are made with Edmonton and Devon.

"They are certainly moving in the direction to indicate that additional motions may not be necessary, and I don't want to put forward motions for the sake of putting forward motions," Hughes said. "What we need to see is either a timeline, or tell me when there will be a timeline, of when we reasonably expect something to occur."

"Just the lack of control that we've had where we're just basically watching everything happen is really disconcerting," she said.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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