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Ridge councillor floats amalgamation with Pitt Meadows

Maple Ridge councillor Cheryl Ashlie says if people want to keep bringing costs down, a more systematic approach to running both municipalities allowing economies of scale is needed.  - The News/Files
Maple Ridge councillor Cheryl Ashlie says if people want to keep bringing costs down, a more systematic approach to running both municipalities allowing economies of scale is needed.
— image credit: The News/Files

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents may have to consider merging if they want to control escalating infrastructure costs and property taxes.

“It can’t be about driving up the taxes. It has to be about bringing down the costs,” said Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.

If people want to keep bringing costs down, a more systematic approach to running both municipalities allowing economies of scale is needed.

“I’ve always been in favour of being together as one. It wouldn’t bother me in the least.”

Ashlie said she’d welcome the discussion of amalgamation. “We have a joint hospital. We have joint police. We have joint parks and leisure.”

What’s lacking however is an inclination from the public.

Ashlie is retiring from politics in November and says she never raised it while on council because there’s no support for it.

“I just know there’s no appetite from the citizens. The people have to drive that type of change because it’s so personal.”

People regularly use services in either community but when it comes to identifying where they’re from they support their municipalities.

However, when it comes to controlling costs, it’s worth discussing merging the municipalities.

Ashlie though didn’t have a particular name in mind, although Ridge Meadows is the most common term, one that’s already used by the Ridge Meadows RCMP.

“That conversation is so far down the path, it wouldn’t be fair to entertain that.”

The City of Pitt Meadows recently celebrated its 100th anniversary while the District of Maple Ridge marks its 140th anniversary in September. It’s also expected to gain city status at that time.

“I personally would not shy from the conversation but I’m not hearing the public driving it.”

She said when she was chair of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board she tried to share staff with the Mission school board but the idea was rejected.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters says she never hears people in Pitt Meadows raise the topic, although she occasionally hears it in Maple Ridge.

“I have no desire to amalgamate with Maple Ridge. It’s not that I have anything against Maple Ridge, it’s just that we’re unique.”

All of the cities in Metro Vancouver could be amalgamated into one city, she added. “I don’t know that you’d save any money in the end.

“I think we in Pitt Meadows do a great job delivering services for the least cost possible.” Amalgamated or not, municipal services still would require the same number of employees to deliver them. The only savings would be at the administrative level.

The source of the discussion bothers the mayor a bit, however.

“It’s very concerning to me when someone who works for the MLA’s office is saying that,” Walters said.

“I’m concerned where that’s coming from.”

In addition to be an outgoing councillor for Maple Ridge, Ashlie is part-time constituency assistant for Liberal Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing.

Ashlie said Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are already ahead of most communities with the amount of services they share.

The next discussions would be sharing government and infrastructure projects.

“I’m leaving politics so it won’t be me.” If amalgamation happened 20 years from now, Ashlie said she’d be OK with that as well

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