Editorial: Sturgeon County has deep pockets and short arms

Four guys go out for dinner and everyone eats an equal share of the food served up, but when the bill comes, one guy starts squirming and making excuses about what his actual share of the bill is. After much argument, stalling and bafflegab, he reluctantly opens his wallet and lays out some cash, an amount that is a fraction of the value of the food he’s just ate. Not wanting to cause a scene, the other three diners quietly dig into their pockets to cover the shortfall of the fourth diner. Privately they call him a cheapskate and a deadbeat, the kind of guy who always seems to need the rest room when the waiter is coming with the cheque.

Sturgeon County has been ducking out on the bill a lot lately, offering some communities a fraction of the money they need to cover the costs of Sturgeon County residents using the various facilities and services available to them under the cost sharing agreement between the county and the neighbouring municipalities. And when those municipalities dare to levy a higher fee on Sturgeon County residents to make up for the funding shortfalls, Sturgeon County withholds funding further, justified in their righteous indignation that county residents are being held hostage.

Case in point – An additional funding allotment offered to municipal libraries who charge county residents the same user fees as municipal residents, something the Morinville Public Library consistently fails to receive. Despite 18 per cent of County residents using the Morinville library and nearly one third of library patrons being county residents, Sturgeon County’s contribution, when worked out on a per capita basis, is substantially less than Morinville’s.

Case in point two – Sturgeon County Council’s decision to withhold a $250,000 CARF grant to help pay for the Morinville Community Cultural Centre, an amount that is just over two per cent of the total cost of the facility, not including furniture and equipment.

In Sturgeon County’s eyes, a $250,000 investment in an $11 million capital investment should be a sufficient financial contribution to warrant County residents renting the facility for the same price as Morinville taxpayers, residents who will pay for the approximately $3 million debenture on the facility either through taxes or Morinville’s share of speeding tickets.

Morinville Council has little choice but to suck it up and accept the $45,000 Sturgeon County has tossed their way for the cost sharing agreement between the two communities, monies that cover the arena, curling club and other local programs and services. The Morinville Public Library has little choice but to accept a grossly inadequate per capita funding of the library from Sturgeon County, their only recourse to lobby council to pony up on funding and hope the amount will increase in 2012. Morinville Town Council has a choice with respect to the soon-to-be-opened community Cultural Centre and is absolutely correct in saying the buck stops here with respect to what level of financial commitment is needed before equal user fees can be charged for residents of both communities.

There may be little that can be done to step out of bad user agreements made more than a decade ago, but Morinville Town Council can certainly put the brakes on allowing Sturgeon County to have another free ride for its residents in a new and very costly facility.

Sturgeon County’s track record of marrying its deep and soon-to-be deeper pockets with its short arms has left communities and their taxpayers footing the County’s portion of the restaurant bill for far too long. It’s time the County ponied up on the funding.


Ed. note: In the interest of full disclosure, the writer of this editorial is both a Morinville resident, Morinville business owner and board member of the Morinville Public Library.

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  1. Really?! So does St. Albert ask the Town of Morinville to dig in those really deep pockets of theirs for financial support of their facilities? I’d like to know more about the agreement before drawing the conclusion that Sturgeon County has short arms.

    My tolerance for unfair treatment has certainly changed. Indeed, I was rather frustrated to find out that I was paying double for my 4 year old’s Morinville Library Membership as a ‘non-resident’….and it’ll be the last time I purchase one for that very reason. I’ll pay double in St. Albert to have the added enjoyment of those beautiful parks, plentiful services, FRESH AIR and tree lined walkways, thanks.

    The people of Sturgeon County help keep such businesses well and alive by the simple act of support shopping. Annually I spent a little over $12,000.00 in the town of Morinville. However, that has changed over the last 5 months. I take my support and place it in St. Albert and Edmonton. Morinville’s Town Council has tiny intestinal tracts and enables their biggest tax payer to torment not only Morinville residents but also other communities with the stench of dog food. Did they tell you how much they spent to bandaide that obvious issue? Are you happy with where your money went? Did they spend it wisely? I think NOT! Mr Bertschi, “Well, they are one of our biggest tax payers”. And this folks is where your issue may lay. Perhaps its presentation, perhaps its incompetence or perhaps it’s others intolerance. I’m not sure, but I’d suggest you look at the top and work your way down for a proper physical assessment of whose arms are short and who has deep pockets. And I’ll do the same.

    A little more food for thought on that lovely Community Culture Center – How would Sturgeon County residents benefit from the center? How about increased quality of life in Morinville? I’m guessing a health promotion facility would do wonderful for the residents and surrounding communities. But the Mayor and council checked with its residents and surrounding municipalities before decision was made, right?

    • Here are the funding facts with respect to the library for 2010.

      2,514 users from Morinville
      1,317 cardholders from Sturgeon County

      That is a 2/3 1/3 split.

      Morinville contributed approximately $250,837 in funding.
      Sturgeon County provided approximately $33,006 in funding.

      Comparing funding between Morinville and St. Albert is not the same because both communities have thier own facilities. The County does not have its own library or arena. That is why it enters into cost sharing agreements with the municipalities, to fund those facilities for their residents use.

      I stand by my statement that the funding is inadequate.

      As to the CCC, the issue is whether non residents should pay the same rental rates as residents and thus benefit from that pricing without supporting the facility through taxes.

      Sturgeon County clearly believes a $250,000 grant should qualify their residents receiving parity pricing on an $11 million facility of which approximately $3 million will be paid for through current and future property taxes.

      Which way the wind blows on Champion’s odour issue has no bearing on how Sturgeon County funds or under funds the facilities in its neighbourhood.

      finally, with respect to St. Albert, the Morinville Room at Servus is a funding arrangement between he Town of Morinville and the facility.

  2. What I’m getting at is how your elected Mayor and council choose to spend your tax dollars, how they ignore my spending (and the rest of the households in Sturgeon County) in your town as significant and with that, expect more and more from the county. I’m sure the business owners knowing of this financial information would be of interest. Their (the elected) actions affect everyone around them just as the stench and toxic elements from Champion does. And they ARE directly at fault for that issue. Its just another example of how the Mayor chooses to turn his nose away from the real stinky issues and push it in the rose bushes instead; not usually the best idea.

    Was there any presentation to the County on the CCC? Did they have a say in the facility? If not, why should the funding be EXPECTED? Perhaps the county should survey how much its tax payers would actually use such a facility. Just so the town of Morinville knows, just because you build it doesn’t actually mean they will come. I personally think a health facility close by would likely have been of more use to most, not to mention the revenue that it would have brought in with monthly/yearly memberships from both Morinville and Sturgeon County residents. So perhaps the vision and planning to better Morinville is directed to few and not the masses. To be honest, I don’t even know what the CCC will have to offer. As a Sturgeon County Tax Payer, I don’t want the towns stinky/toxic air in my neighbourhood…likely as much as you want it. Which is also why I feel my tax dollars could be directed to a much more deserving area. I’m not sure where the entitlment expectation is coming from. Perhaps Morinville residents use my preschools, my roads and my parks. Perhaps your dog owners are leaving their dog dropping on my grass. Should we expect financial help with those areas?

    Which way the wind blows does affect how I want my tax dollars spent. I’m for Morinville betterment but feel the wrong actions are being made and expectations are in the wrong place. Sort of like expecting the Town Council will do the right thing!

  3. To Lisa WHO?

    It is amazing how much someone who has been afforded anonymity has to say.
    And, do not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

    If you let your name be known, then at least when those who know more than you apparently do, meet with you, they will be able to educate you or at least debate with you the merits of your ‘blinders on point’ of view.

    Stephen, you are right. The Morinville room at Service Place was originally supposed to be 50k for naming in perpetuity. However, it was brought to Morinville’s attention that about (the numbers might not be exact) 3% of memberships were from Morinville and about 5% of drop inns were from Morinville. So Morinville agreed to pay another 10k/yr for 5 years to help cover operating costs, at which time the agreement would be reviewed.

    As to the library. Instead of being mad at the library for having a non resident rate, how about getting your council to pay their share on your behalf. Or are you happy with the almost, free ride.

    Ps. Did you check the election results?

  4. @ Joe,

    Afforded anonymity! That’s comical; thanks for the laugh. Am I missing something here? Was I supposed to provide YOU with more?

    My name is Lisa; female in my 20s. I’m a Sturgeon County resident; Cardiff in fact. I am a nurse, a wife, a mother of two and a contributing member to society. Should you sincerely need to know my last name, I’m not convinced that providing it to you would be worth my time. But if my demographic is of interest, there you have it.

    As for who you are, what you may look like or your previous placement within the council, I don’t really care. I find your points somewhat interesting and entertaining, definitely worth debate. And face it, its comments like mine that keep conversations going. You certainly chime in on them. Its sites like this that ideas are made from. One might say, constructive criticism at work creating awareness to the darker areas.

    Re: My being “mad” at the Morinville library: I’m not mad at the Morinville Library, I’m frustrated that the cost doubled without receiving notice. I wouldn’t be opposed to Sturgeon County paying the funds and I just might confront them with this issue if I didn’t fear my child vomiting from the stench in your town. In the mean time, I choose to make the miles into St. Albert and use their library. Their air is, lets just say, lighter there. We are less likely to vomit by entering the town. I also take my funds, log on to Chapters or Amazon and buy books…because I can without interference. Then I donate them once I’m done; because I’m good like that; sometimes even to the Morinville Library when the wind blows the right way : )

    P.S. No need to spit so much venom toward everyone you disagree with. Is this how you acted while in council? I’m guessing that really worked for you. Like I said great ideas come from sites like this. What election are you referring to?

  5. Lisa,

    I think the venom being spat is all from you. Sturgeon County does need to step up to the plate and fund infrastructure and services appropriately. Sturgeon County had several opportunities to pay a more equitable fee structure and did not follow through so the library needed to do something. It is not the libraries fault that Sturgeon County neglected to tell you!

    I really hope that the poor relationship between towns and county in this area will improve- nothing positive comes from the arguing and bad blood that has lingered for way too long.

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