The County of Stettler council has, at least temporarily, denied a request from Clearview Public Schools (CPS) to have a pair of representatives sit on a planning board for a new elementary school and renovated high school.
Council received a request from CPS during it’s Sept. 13 meeting, and while not against supporting the project council was concerned that too much involvement could complicate budget discussions later on.
“I can definitely see value with the project,” said Coun. Justin Stevens.
“There’s merits to discussing it. I’m a little bothered that they are advertising publicly that we are on board.”
Coun. James Nibourg agreed with his colleague, saying “I think we have to cautiously look at this.”
In an update on Sept. 21, Clearview Public Schools denied any public advertisement connecting the county with the board on this project.
According to Andrew Brysiuk, the county’s director of municipal services, an added complication of the county being involved in the planning elements for the new school facilities is the impending deadline for the joint-use planning agreements.
Joint-use planning agreements were introduced by the Government of Alberta several years ago, and are required to be negotiated and completed between all municipalities and school divisions operating within their boundaries.
The agreements are short- and long-term planning tools between the divisions and municipalities that cover things like the liability of public users, who pays what maintenance, how disputes between the two parties are handled, and other items.
Initially required to be completed by June 2023, the province eventually moved the deadline to June 2025.
Stevens noted that it needed to be made understood to Clearview that the county had multiple schools within its borders, and while it was willing to help with the project, any help had to be reasonable and consistent for all.
“What we do for one, we want to do consistently,” said Stevens.
One concern noted by multiple councillors was if the county were to contribute a significant amount to the project, other schools could immediately turn to the county looking for funds as well.
Another concern held by council is Clearview’s intention to turn the new builds into more of a community hub, something which would be better covered by the recreation agreement held between the town and the county.
“If it’s a recreation facility used by the town and the county, it should be approached that way,” said Stevens.
Chief administrative officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy noted that the current recreation agreement is approaching its 10-year anniversary and county council could reopen the agreement if it wished.
Ultimately, council chose to not provide two members to the planning board for the newly proposed facility but reserved the right to change its mind in the future. Additionally, council also voted in favour of sending a letter to the partners in the project clarifying the county’s position.