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St. Albert gives green light to recreation collaboration with Morinville

The recreation intermunicipal collaboration framework could foster the sharing of rec services between the municipalities, such as pools and ice rinks.

St. Albert city council has approved a new agreement that could see the city collaborate with the Town of Morinville on future recreation projects, council heard Monday. 

The recreation intermunicipal collaboration framework (ICF) will enable conversations about how both regions can improve the quality of life for residents while making the most of regional resources.

St. Albert already has a recreation ICF with the City of Edmonton. 

Pending Morinville council’s approval, an administrative working group will be formed by each municipality’s chief administrative officer. The group will explore ways for the two regions to work together. 

Partnerships could focus on areas such as community amenity site planning, ice surface access for St. Albert use groups, Morinville Leisure Centre Lands, and facility and program cross marketing. 

Coun. Jacquie Hansen, who brought forward the motion, described the ICF as “really good news.”

“There’s always a little bit of difficulty making these things perfect, but the first step has been taken, and I think it’s an important one,” Hansen said. “Good on St. Albert and Morinville.”

Currently, the framework only applies to recreation services, but could be expanded in the future, St. Albert government relations manager Trevor Duley told council. 

Duley said once the working groups are formed, the next step would be to “put some more meat on the bones” in terms of what areas will be prioritized through the framework. 

While the framework commits partners to share information and foster discussion, it does not commit the partners to cost sharing. 

Coun. Sheena Hughes called the framework “a really good first step.”

“The next council needs to look at expanding this to all of our neighbours so we can have clear communication and clear expectations about what each one is bringing to the table,” Hughes said. “I appreciate administration for doing what you’ve done today.”

Mayor Cathy Heron said the framework shows “a lot of strength.”

“For two municipalities that are not neighbours to still go ahead and demonstrate this kind of collaboration is very important,” Heron said. “I’m super proud to be part of a municipality that continues to lead in the conversation of regional collaboration.”

The mayor elaborated on what outcomes she would like to see from the ICF on Tuesday morning. 

“One of the beneficial outcomes would be a better understanding by residents of the whole region that not every municipality has to have a skating rink, a curling rink, and a swimming pool,” Heron said. “The financial pressures on municipalities right now just won’t allow for that.”

She added that ensuring St. Albert has additional recreation options will be a matter of working with the city’s neighbours. 

“If a Morinville resident has to drive to St. Albert for swimming lessons, and a St. Albert family has to go to Morinville for hockey practice, then that’s fine,” Heron said. “If we don’t try together, then that St. Albert family and that Morinville family won’t have those amenities.”

Heron noted while the ICF is currently limited to recreation, it could be expanded in the future to include social services that are utilized by both municipalities. 

“Morinville residents are probably coming to St. Albert to access some of our youth programming and our food bank, and Morinville provides a women’s shelter,” Heron said. “Those kinds of services could be shared for residents, and also shared in cost.”

The motion to create a recreation ICF passed unanimously in St. Albert. 

Morinville passes ICF motion

The following day, Morinville council voted unanimously in support of a recreation ICF with St. Albert. 

Mayor Barry Turner said that he was "certainly supportive" of the collaboration. 

"At this point it's quite exploratory, but at the end of the day you never really know where you can go unless you try to get there," Turner said.

He noted the ICF would be important given the "capital crunches" municipalities have been facing and will continue to in the future. 

"We need to do what we can to maximize our resources, and that includes looking outside our borders and working with our regional and sub-regional partners," Turner said.

"I'm very appreciative of the work that's been done and look forward to seeing more in the future."