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Black Diamond, Turner Valley councils vote to amalgamate

“Since I’ve been on council all I’ve heard is, ‘why isn’t this done?’” -- Turner Valley Mayor Barry Crane
Black Diamond and Turner Valley councils voted on Sept. 1 in favour of amalgamating the two communities. The proposal now needs approval of Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver. (Wheel file photo)

There is only one step left to make Turner Valley and Black Diamond a single town – Provincial approval.

Turner Valley and Black Diamond Town councils agreed on Wednesday night to send a 14-page report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ric McIver, laying out the information gathered over the last year on amalgamating the two towns. Municipal Affairs will review the report in the coming months and determine if the move can go ahead.

Turner Valley council quickly voted unanimously to accept the report and send it on to the Province.

“Since I’ve been on council all I’ve heard is, ‘why isn’t this done?’” said Mayor Barry Crane, at the Sept. 1 meeting.

Coun. Lana Hamilton said throughout the process she looked for red flags, but said in the end, she was “fully in support.”

However, Black Diamond council was divided on the issue.

Councillors Brian Marconi, Ted Bain and Daryl Lalonde voted against accepting the report and sending it to the Province for review.

The remaining four members on council, Mayor Ruth Goodwin and councillors Sharon Hart, Veronica Kloiber and Jackie Stickel voted for proceeding with an amalgamation request.

In a heated debate, the three Black Diamond councillors expressed concerns over lack of public consultation, future impacts for residents and argued the year-long process was too quick.

“We have not asked the public properly,” Marconi said.

The Town held six public information and consultation sessions and had one survey on the issue.

Bain also shared a concern that the town survey did not ask directly if residents do or do not want to amalgamate with Turner Valley and said by his calculation the public’s response has been 2-1 against amalgamation. In a public survey, the Towns asked residents about their concerns and hopes around amalgamation and what they wanted to know more about, but not if they support or oppose the move.

“We know what our neighbours and circle of friends want, but we don’t know what the majority want,” Bain said, noting that a 2007 plebiscite was voted down by Black Diamond residents.

On the other hand, Goodwin felt that the public consultation was sufficient over the last year.

“The opportunity to express concerns was available at all times,” she said.

Lalonde called amalgamation the end of an era for the towns. He said more information is needed than what is contained in the report being sent to the Province and said the issue should be deferred for the next council.

“I don’t have a problem pushing it for four years,” he said.

Stickel said she believes people feel that amalgamation is inevitable and want the Towns to move forward with it and that is why participation at amalgamation events was low.

“Very few people attended,” Stickel said of public consultation meetings. “Some wanted information and some opposed it and some supported it, but I believe more supported it than opposed it.”

If the Province approves the request, the Towns will become one town named Diamond Valley with a population of close to 5,800 residents. An election for a new seven-person council for the amalgamated town will be held Nov. 22, 2022.

Amalgamation between the neighbouring towns has been in discussion for more than 40 years. It is the first time in Alberta that a joint agreement on amalgamation has been proposed.