Council watch group brings up ‘amalgamation’

Former trustee Katherine Wagner no plans to run for council.

Maple Ridge Council Watch’s goal is to discuss municipal issues and keep an eye on council — but its purview stretched to Pitt Meadows this week when the topic of amalgamation was raised.

“It’s an interesting subject. I’m absolutely fascinated by what people say,” said Katherine Wagner, who formed the Facebook and Twitter group, which now has 66 members.

The current population of Maple Ridge is 77,000.

Pitt Meadows has 17,800 residents.

Wagner doesn’t consider it a serious proposition, at the moment.

“Geographically, what about Mission/Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows forming one municipality?” There are benefits, Wagner says in a Facebook post.

“Of course, there are also drawbacks … and, for many, tradition. Change is never easy, even if it makes sense.”

Wagner knows amalgamation now is simply a discussion topic and remembers when she was a school trustee that the topic of joining Maple Ridge and Mission school boards was a touchy issue. That merger never happened.

“There was a lot of push back,” she said. “It does seem to me, you would have a lot more clout when you’re in a larger municipality.”

While the issue would require lots of information and discussion, Wagner said if both municipalities decided voluntarily to merge, rather than being compelled to do so by the provincial government, they could take their time doing so and phase in the unification process.

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows currently share education, recreation and police services.

Initially, Pitt Meadows was part of Maple Ridge, when Maple Ridge was founded in 1874.

However, local residents campaigned to have their own municipal identity, and in 1914 Pitt Meadows was formed. Pitt Meadows became a city in 2007 after applying to Victoria to change its status.

Wagner said amalgamation was a topic 20 years ago when she arrived in the area. “It always kind of bubbles under the surface.”

If a merge ever happened, the larger city like could move to a ward system, in which councillors represented particular areas of a city. That could be another benefit, she added.

For Pitt Meadows city councillor and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing, amalgamation is an old topic “that keeps resurfacing.

“At this point in time, I don’t see it happening. Down the road, you just never know.”

Any time a larger entity wants to take over a smaller entity, it always causes concern in the latter. If Maple Ridge wanted to merge, could it persuade Pitt Meadows it’s in its best interest to do so?

Bing said Pitt Meadows often feels that it’s second fiddle and doesn’t get a fair deal in its service agreements with Maple Ridge.

Wagner said she doesn’t plan on running for Maple Ridge council in next year’s municipal elections. She’s already served three terms as a trustee for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board.

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