Stick with the FVRD, suggests city staff

A report, scheduled to be presented on Monday, is recommending that Abbotsford remain as part of the FVRD.

Abbotsford’s explorations in leaving the Fraser Valley Regional District may be coming to an end.

A staff report, scheduled to be presented on Monday, is recommending the city remain as part of the FVRD.

Early in 2011, council and then-Mayor George Peary directed city staff to examine the financial implications of leaving the district to become a single-tier governance.

It was believed that the move would save taxpayers as much as $750,000 annually. In 2010, Abbotsford contributed approximately $3 million to the district. A majority of council felt the city could provide the same level of services, such as 911 and fire dispatch, mosquito control, and regional planning, for a lower cost.

However, in 2012, new Mayor Bruce Banman and the city manager met with Ida Chong, then Minister of Community Sport and Cultural Development. She told them the province would not consider the city’s request to become a separate entity, but would examine a proposal to create a new regional district if at least one other city and one other electoral area was involved.

Banman held a meeting with several local mayors representing Chilliwack, Mission, the Township of Langley and the City of Langley.

It was agreed that the change was not needed at this time.

“I think when you take into light that we are talking about the region as a whole, my personal opinion is that Abbotsford is much better off to stay part of a region. It will make us stronger,” said Banman.

While council will have the final say, Banman said staying in the region will help the city to “defend” itself against things like “Metro’s garbage burning incinerators.”

“In addition to that, also in my opinion, the FVRD found us between $500,000 and $600,000 in savings when they revamped their budget,” which Banman said eliminates much of the financial argument.

Another factor in the recommendation is that the city will have a stronger voice on the FVRD.

Due to the recent census, based on the city’s population, Abbotsford gets one more additional director at the table.

Currently, Banman, along with Couns. Patricia Ross, John Smith, Simon Gibson and Moe Gill, are members of the board.

Banman said it is likely the sixth member would be appointed on Monday night, if council approves the recommendation.

Ross is the vice-chair of the FVRD and said she is relieved staff has made the recommendation to stay.

“I’ve never thought it was a good idea to leave the FVRD, so I’m very pleased that finally we are giving up on that and giving some certainty to the FVRD.”

She said it was difficult for the district to plan and budget for the future with the issue “hanging over its head.”

Ross believes the motion will likely pass on Monday night.

While the issue did cause some uncertainty, Ross believes it will only take a “little bit of fence-mending” for Abbotsford and the FVRD to move forward.

“There have never been any nasty remarks or poor behaviour because of it,” she said.

She believes both parties will “put it behind them” and “look forward to planning our future.”

The FVRD consists of six municipalities – Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Hope, Kent and Harrison – and seven electoral areas.

Each member community pays the FVRD user fees and a tax requisition based on population.

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