The examination of the regionalizing County of Newell, Town of Bassano and the City of Brooks under one umbrella has died as the Regional Working Group made up up of representatives from the aforementioned municipalities. 

Cue the cheering from the rural area ratepayers.

After all the money spent on doing research, hosting meetings as well as the countless hours of time spent on writing speeches, figuring out on-the-spot rebuttals at meetings, not to mention all the coffeeshop and quonset entrance chats amongst neighbours and family, it all ended with a two-paragraph press release Sept. 6. It was the 12th sent out by Regional Working Group.

“On Thursday, September 5, the County of Newell Council voted in favour of the County of Newell to end their participation with the Regional Working Group, therefore ending their research into amalgamation. Based on this decision, consensus of the Regional Working Group was to end their amalgamation discussions and no longer meet. The Regional Working Group was formed to explore and analyze how working together through regionalization, and potentially amalgamation, could benefit the region…”

Local members of council must have heard an earful during the ratepayer-organized meetings. In the end, the Working Group listened to the rural population who seemingly opposed, especially in Rainier where they were vehement in their opposition during a meeting August 7. At Rainier’s Community Hall, Division 4 councillor Wayne Hammergren and Chief Administrative Officer, Kevin Stephenson were met with unequivocal resistance.

Plus, not having the local councils of Rosemary, Duchess and not to mention the rather vigorous protests from the rural residents, this was the outcome many demanded. In fact, prior to the press release, another local ratepayers-organized meeting had been organized. 

Those in the rural areas thought their voices and autonomy would take a major hit from having (proposed) less clout at the council table (i.e. combined Brooks and Bassano council members would have meant more voting power than the remaining rural areas). Coupled with the fact there was accumulated debt on both sides to consider, having an urban area with its own agenda being able to take precedence over rural areas in policy making, those in the rural areas didn’t like the idea of combining.

One of the good positives that happened with all of this is that brought neighbours together throughout the entire County of Newell to talk. Perhaps some lines of communication were reenergized or new ones opened. If nothing else, those who seemed apathetic to local politics or government workings in general, have their eyes wide open and will definitely be more interested in County politics in the future.

As one area resident posted on Scandia’s village Facebook page upon learning of the news, “Good. Now make damned sure it does not reoccur.”

Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East

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