Regional servicing plan moves ahead

A St. Albert councillor hopes some proposed regional collaborative groups could help this city save money when it comes to solid waste.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board’s (EMRB) metro region servicing task force approved the metropolitan region servicing plan Thursday.

The task force, which includes St. Albert Coun. Ray Watkins, was charged two years ago by the EMRB to come up with a plan for potential joint servicing in water, wastewater, stormwater, solid waste, transportation and emergency services.

The Edmonton region is set to basically double in population in the next 40 to 50 years, and area governments will have to provide services to those people, said task force chair and Devon Mayor Ray Ralph.

“We’ve come to realise that as you grow as a region, municipal boundaries disappear,” he said, and residents don’t look at boundaries – they just want the best service they can get for their dollar. If we work together on services and make sure we’re planning ahead, that’s going to be the best for all of us,” Ralph said.

The task force found the region is already co-operating well when it comes to water, wastewater and transportation through groups such as Epcor, the Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission and the new regional transit commission, and recommended the region carry on with those arrangements.

Expert panels
But it found room for improvement in the other areas. Stormwater causes floods across borders, for example, yet area governments for the most part manage it individually. Municipalities all struggle with marketing their recyclables and greenhouse gases from organic waste, yet all run their own waste services – despite the fact many waste contractors already operate regionally.

That’s led to inefficiency and duplication. Ralph recalled one recent case where a six-car pileup near Devon saw fire trucks from Devon, Leduc, Edmonton and more respond, due to confusion over who had jurisdiction over it.

“We actually literally had six different departments show up for a six-vehicle accident because there was no communication between the groups.”

Instead of jumping right to joint servicing through a regional commission, the task force recommended the EMRB establish regional collaboratives for fire, emergency management, stormwater and solid waste in these areas as a first step.

These collaboratives would be expert panels gathered from EMRB member governments that would meet four to six times a year to collect baseline data, establish common terminologies and policies, determine future servicing needs and identify how best to address them as a region, the task force explained. Each would operate under an action plan created by the board and be supervised by a metro region servicing plan standing committee.

These collaboratives would share best practices that could help save St. Albert money, Watkins said.

“Right now, our solid waste is just tipped at the landfill,” he said as an example.

If the metropolitan region were to come together to fund the proposed St. Albert waste-to-energy pilot project, it could share the risks and costs and find a better way to manage its trash, Watkins said.

Ralph said the task force’s plan and recommendations would go to the EMRB for approval Dec. 12, after which they would need approval from the province. He hoped to see the collaborative groups in place within two years.

“We don’t want to lose the momentum.”