Lethbridge County is building bridges — both literally and figuratively — with a new collaborative framework by partnering with both the St. Mary River Irrigation District and the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District.
“This collaborative agreement is not so much about funding each other,” said Terrence Lazarus, general manager of the St. Mary River Irrigation District, “it’s more about working together in a collaborative fashion.
“It’s a pretty exciting new chapter in our organizations.”
With around 187,000 acres of irrigated land in the region, the county boasts the largest irrigation district in Canada.
“The focus of this agreement is more local,” Lazarus said. “Like, what do we do in our area to help our citizens and work together?”
The partnership could see shared infrastructure and funding goals met in a more streamlined way.
“It will be huge savings,” Lethbridge County CAO Ann Mitchell said.
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“We can’t really put a dollar value on it. But whenever you work collaboratively and in a more regional manner, there are not only financial benefits but relationship benefits as well.”
The collaboration hones in on three main priorities:
- Work together on common projects
- Educate and receive feedback from the community
- Collectively advocate to the provincial government
County officials said the partnership has been in the works for just over a year, with a goal to economize.
“Given now the budget constraints that we’re seeing provincially, there is downloading that is happening to the county,” Mitchell said.
“We’re now being charged with policing costs which we never have before. So now more than ever, it’s critically important that we work together.”
“I think the biggest challenge, and you know everyone is suffering from this, is budget cutbacks,” he said.
“We can help them go forward to the provincial government to ask them to provide funding for, say, bridges, or provide maintenance for the bridges.”
Quarterly meetings are planned to re-evaluate goals and achievements each year.
The first meeting is slated for March 2020, and will focus on educating community members about opportunities and challenges moving forward.