It’s taken a few years, but on November 28, 2012, representatives of the four founding communities of the 39/20 Alliance (Breton, Calmar, Thorsby, and Warburg) gathered in the Warburg Village Office to sign an Agreement that gives organizational structure to the group as well as a protocol to follow.
The leadership was voted in by acclamation: Chair—Darren Aldous (Breton); Co-Chair—Don Falkner (Calmar) and Secretary—Barry Rasch (Thorsby).
The Highway 39/20 Alliance is about partnership and finding efficiencies. It’s about the coming together of smaller communities who are struggling with resources during hard economic times. “If anyone thinks they can go it alone nowadays…,” and here, Aldous just shakes his head. As past president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), he knows the difficulties facing smaller communities.
The inception for 39/20 took place many years ago with a simple, “It sure would be good to work together on some of these projects,” conversation between Darren Aldous and Don Faulkner at an AUMA convention in Calgary. The idea became even more cohesive as other area Mayors and Councillors voiced their concerns with equality issues when dealing with larger communities—smaller communities were being pushed to the back burner or their issues minimized. Wouldn’t it be great for communities with similar issues to work closely together?
So it was that the communities of Warburg, Thorsby, Calmar and Breton began getting together; but it was with an informal structure.
And as Co-Chair /Calmar Mayor Don Faulkner points out, “It was hard to do without structure…without (designated) meeting times and dates.” But with this Agreement, that’s all changed.
Faulkner identifies the key issues the 39/20 Alliance will begin to tackle at their first meeting on January 16, 2013, “…We will need to get a business plan going. We’ll look to what we each have to offer and identify our needs. We need to accelerate project ideas and budgets for the coming 2014 year.” The Alliance will also look into securing a Municipal Affairs partnership grant for an administration resource person to help implement upcoming economic development and tourism initiatives.
39/20, as it is popularly called, has been operational for a few years. By jointly tendering projects—such as water metering and garbage disposal—39/20 communities have already saved big bucks on their hard-stretched budgets.
Often, smaller communities find it difficult, if not impossible, to attract tenders for necessary services because service providers prefer negotiating with larger communities on larger projects. Streets, street sweeping, sidewalks, sewer, and water are among the future joint tendering projects that may be considered.
More than joint tendering
Economic Development and Tourism also fall under the 39/20 umbrella.
Chairperson Darren Aldous says the Alliance makes good sense for smaller communities. Take his community of Breton for example. Breton is not a member of any economic regional development group, even though it sits on the edge of a couple of larger economic development areas. But, as sometimes happens when working with larger communities, the smaller partners can be left behind. That is not so with the 39/20 Alliance.
Economic Development is an item for the Alliance to explore—what will bring in business and residential development to the area?
Tourism will be another thing they will be promoting. Co-Chair Don Faulkner says, “We could be getting a lot more bang for our buck—be it Thorsby Rodeo Days, Calmar’s Fair Days, Warburg Go-Karts, or Breton’s [Winter Fest].”
The key to making it work
“There’s a lot of camaraderie between our Councils,” said Aldous. “There are no sacred cows here…everybody’s here for the same thing and definitely, as we move forward with our projects, our communities are going to benefit.”
Another key component is flexibility. Any 39/20 community may “opt out” of any project that duplicates services or projects already in place, or if a community decides a project is not a good fit.
Secretary Barry Rasch adds one more component—the 39/20 Alliance is based on mutual respect. “It’s respect for each other’s issues and respect in seeing each other as equals.” He notes it is vital to keep the lines of communication open to other municipalities in order to maintain that respect.
There has been talk of other larger communities joining the 39/20 Alliance. While Aldous did not dismiss the idea of these larger communities joining in the future, he stressed, “For now, the focus will be on the addressing the smaller communities’ needs.”
39/20 Alliance Councillor reps participating in the historic signing (those signing the agreement are listed first within their community listing):
Village of Breton: Mayor Darren Aldous and Councillor Kimberly Plaquin;
Town of Calmar: Mayor Don Falkner and Councillor Wally Yachimetz;
Village of Thorsby: Mayor Barry Rasch and Councillor Mitch Williams;
Village of Warburg: Acting Deputy Mayor Dale Miller and Councillor Ralph vanAssen.
Other Councillors and Administrators present for the signing:
Breton: Deputy Mayor Janet Young and Councillor Ann Power;
Calmar: CAO Kathy Rodberg;
Thorsby Councillor Rick Hart and Town Manager Bob Payette;
Warburg Mayor Dawson Kohl, Councillors Kristie Elgersma and Fred Rapati, and CAO Chris Pankewitz.