The City of Wetaskiwin is terminating its membership with the regional Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) agreement, effective Dec. 31, 2017.
The decision to leave the agreement was made during council’s June 26 meeting, with a 5-2 split vote. Mayor Bill Elliot and Coun. June Boyda voted not to walk away from the economic agreement.
JEDI started in 2003 as an economic development partnership between the City of Wetaskiwin, the County of Wetaskiwin and the Town of Millet. It was one of the first municipal partnerships of its kind in Alberta to enter into a cost and revenue sharing master agreement between multiple municipalities.
However, since its inception, apparently feelings have changed in the City of Wetaskiwin as multiple councillors do not feel the return on investment warrants continuation with JEDI. Until dissolution of the city’s involvement at the end of this year it will continue as an active member of JEDI.
Coun. Tyler Gandam saw a benefit, but not enough to balance the cost. “I feel the principal of the agreement is great.”
He added what the agreement is costing the city and what it is seeing in return is not working for him.
To date, Wetaskiwin has contributed more than $1.8 million to JEDI, says Coun. Wayne Neilson. “We typically pay more than we receive.”
Neilson says three major points guided his decision to vote for the termination; first being the concern with return on investment.
“My second point is functionality,” said Neilson, who feels a person marketing the entire region economically cannot market the City of Wetaskiwin to the extent it would like due to conflicting constraints.
“My last point is who is best suited to market Wetaskiwin but Wetaskiwin. I believe we can do better than a third party can,” said Neilson.
He also added he hopes the three municipal partners of JEDI will be able to move forward collaboratively on regional economic development without a cost-sharing agreement.
Coun. Patricia MacQuarrie shared his opinion of working collaboratively with the other municipalities without “binding structures” such as JEDI.
Such collaborations are encouraged and could include intermunicipal development plan (IDP) agreements. IDPs between municipalities are created to help foster co-operation in a manner that is complementary and beneficial to all parties involved.
MacQuarrie added she did not feel JEDI had generated a positive fiscal return for the community.
Coun. Horvey made mention he found the decision a difficult one to make. “I truly believe it would be wrong of us to hamstring the next council with another year’s administration costs.”
Horvey was another councillor to state he hoped collaborations between the municipalities would continue.
Coun. June Boyda feels there are principals of JEDI that continue to hold merit.
While it would not be the city’s first attempt, she wanted to see if discussions could change the structure of the agreement to take out administration costs, rather than remove the city as a participant.
Elliot questioned what costs the city would face in leaving JEDI. “It took a long time to get the city and the county to the relationship to where it is now,” said Elliot.
He followed that by expressing he did have concerns the JEDI staff were duplicating what city staff could do.
JEDI staff was contacted but did not have an official statement prepared by the Pipestone Flyer’s press time.