Proposal to amalgamate Black Diamond and Turner Valley sent to Alberta government
CALGARY -- The towns of Turner Valley and Black Diamond will amalgamate if a proposal being sent to the provincial government is accepted.
It's not the first time the two southern Alberta communities have looked at a merger. The idea first arose in 1986, then again in 2007 when it was nixed in a plebiscite by an 815-721 margin, with Turner Valley residents voting in favour of the plan 493-258 and black diamond denizens nixing the idea by voting against it 557-228.
The amalgamation is being done now without a plebiscite after the councils of both towns voted to send a letter to the provincial minister of municipal affairs asking for the amalgamation to proceed.
The current push to merge comes largely as a result of provincial changes to police funding brought in by Alberta’s UCP government.
“It's just business costs from the province being downloaded onto us,” said Turner Valley Mayor Barry Crane.
“In a five-year window we'll both be on the hook for upward to $160,000-plus per community based on (our) populations, but as we breach 5,000 in population we then have access to the municipal policing grants, which will actually be a cost savings.”
The merged communities would have a population slightly above the 5,000 resident threshold. An amalgamation feasibility study done in 2017 showed, at the time, Black Diamond had 2,700 residents, just slightly more than Turner valley’s population of 2,559
Further cost savings will be found in grouping capital expenditures on items like backhoes, and snowplows. The two town councils will also disappear and be replaced by one serving the newly formed municipal entity.
“You’re also losing one CAO (chief administrative officer) as well as one entire council," said Black Diamond Mayor Ruth Goodwin.
“Depending on the audited financials and looking at them for both towns, it's anywhere between $300,000 and $400,000 in total savings.”
Goodwin expects those savings to be reflected in the property taxes in both communities.
The Town of Black Diamond
While the two town councils agree a merger is needed, people living and working in the two neighbouring communities are split on the idea.
“When people come out here from the city they visit both towns so it's, we're so close together why not be one?” said Sarah Harold, owner of Valley Liquor in Turner Valley.
“The two towns pretty much work together as a whole anyway, and it just makes most sense.”
A resident of Black Diamond for 50 years, Terry Rambo disagrees.
“There’s them and there’s us, and a lot of the time these two towns don’t get along,” Rambo told CTV.
“I like the idea of two separate towns. They're close enough together, but I think it's better to be separate.”
Meanwhile, choosing a name for the newly merged communities looks to be controversial. Many businesses, from gas stations, to restaurants already use the term “Diamond Valley”. But some in Black Diamond say that name downplays the town’s history.
“I love the name Black Diamond, because, you know, there is a story of Black Diamond,” said Luc Bayard, owner of Cool hand Luc’s Treasure Shop in Black Diamond.
“There's the coal, and so the word black is important in there. You know. it's Black’ Diamond. It’s important people know the story of the town."
But three kilometres down the road in Turner Valley, Sarah Harold says the name Diamond Valley is just fine – even if it puts Turner Valley's contribution to the name in second place.
“I definitely use it in my advertising. And it is just kind of joining the two town names basically," said Harold.
“So it just makes it easier that way, but (I am) pretty sure both towns would keep their separate names."
The Town of Turner Valley
Goodwin agrees that both towns will likely retain their names, but only as communities inside a larger, yet to be titled town.
"The discussion about the name and the other aspects of the application need to be discussed and negotiated," said Goodwin.
"That all starts after Sept. 15. I would have to say that Diamond Valley is on the top of my list, but I'm just one of 14 (votes on the two councils)."
“Our history is going to remain intact, our character of our community is going to remain," said Crane.
“Our volunteer base and our artists which make up our community will all be the same. So I see no change, just efficiencies and a better way to service our public.”
The two councils will jointly send the formal amalgamation request to the province on Sept. 15.