RM, Village of Loon Lake to share personnel
by Phil Ambroziak
“It’s not amalgamation.”
That’s what Laurie Lehoux, administrator for both the RM and Village of Loon Lake, wants to assure residents following a recent decision by the RM to share administration costs and services with its neighbouring municipality.
“In the past, discussions around this sort of an agreement have gone back and forth several times,” Lehoux explained. “The village has had three administrators in the past year – they just can’t get anyone to stay. I have been offering my services to the village for the past three months, and now it’s finally been decided it would be more desirable to join offices.”
As of last week, the village was in the process of moving its operations into the RM office. Once settled in, the village will pay a portion of utilities, office equipment, wages and other expenses, which will be established by a joint steering committee.
“We face the same problem most smaller villages do, trying to get a qualified administrator on a limited budget,” stated Village of Loon Lake Mayor Larry Heon. “We were trying to be proactive instead of reactive, so we approached the RM to see if they would be willing to take over our administrative duties on a fee for services contract.”
Reeve Harvey Dimond also noted this agreement does not mean the municipalities are amalgamating.
“The RM and the village are two separate entities with their own councils that make their own decisions,” Dimond said. “We are just combining the administration portion to save costs for both parties.”
Lehoux went on to note how difficult and frustrating it could be during the last three months when splitting her time between both the RM and village offices, even though the two buildings are within fairly close proximity to one another.
“If I chose to be in the village office one day and an RM resident came in to ask a question, I would have none of my books or necessary paperwork, and would have to tell them to come back on a day when I would be working at the RM office – or vice versa,” she said. “Now, everything will be under one roof. I think there could be some confusion for both sets of ratepayers in the beginning because of the thought we’re amalgamating – we’re not.”
The official decision to share administrative costs was made at the April 11 RM council meeting. Members who voted in favour were Dimond and councillors Dan Wagmann, Wade Culbert and Nancy Butler. Councillors Bob Gristwood, James Schilling and Irving Melenchuk were opposed.
“I would have supported it if they were willing to designate two days per week to primarily work on village stuff and three days per week to work strictly on RM stuff with, of course, a little carryover,” Gristwood said. “When I went to the meeting, that is what I believed the proposal was going to be. But, our reeve said work for either or (village and RM) would be done on all five days, yet we would only bill the village for two days per week. It was too wishy-washy, so I voted against it.”