Pitt Meadows council unanimously dispensed with the issue of amalgamation after a brief discussion on Tuesday, with councillors saying citizens of their city have no interest in merging with Maple Ridge.
They reacted to correspondence from Mike Murray, who sent a three-page letter asking that both city councils consider a referendum on amalgamation. Murray is the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School Board chair and a former general manager of community development, parks and recreation, but clarified he was writing as a private citizen.
Coun. Bill Dingwall spoke against amalgamation. He is in favour of building a strong relationship between the two cities, and collaborating where it makes sense to Pitt Meadows, he said.
“I also believe in Pitt Meadows, our identity, and why we choose to live here in Pitt Meadows,” he said.
Coun. Bruce Bell said he has talked to many Pitt Meadows residents about amalgamation over the years and found they are generally not supportive of joining with Maple Ridge.
“Pitt Meadows is so unique, and we can look after our own affairs,” said Bell. “It certainly is good to have some partners out there when we need them.”
Coun. Janis Elkerton said residents of Pitt Meadows are not happy this issue has even been raised again.
“And, as usual, it’s Maple Ridge wanting to join with Pitt Meadows, because we have great assets that they want,” she said.
Elkerton proposed a motion that council reply to Murray, saying Pitt Meadows is not interested in amalgamation. That motion passed unanimously.
She also remarked that Murray was not able to make his comments as a private citizen, given the public position he holds.
Murray said he hasn’t given up his citizen’s rights to comment on political issues, and did not accept Elkerton’s criticism that his letter was in any way inappropriate.
“I entirely disagree,” said Murray. “This was not a school board position.”
He stressed that he wanted to start the conversation and get both municipalities studying the issue.
Murray did receive some feedback on the issue, and said the response was mixed.
He heard from people who feared that Pitt Meadows would lose its identity in amalgamation, but he doesn’t believe that would happen.
“Think about a community like Richmond with Steveston,” he said. “Steveston clearly has an identity within Richmond.”
He also heard fears that Pitt Meadows residents would lack strong representation if it amalgamated with Maple Ridge. The flip side of that, he said, is that Pitt people would have a voice and a vote in the affairs of both cities, which are already joined in many ways.
“Pitt Meadows residents would have more say in the larger community in which they live, many work, and play in,” he said.
Murray was resigned to the discussion being terminated practically before it started, after Pitt council’s decision.
“Presumably, it ends there,” said Murray, and he respects council’s authority in the matter.
“People have to be able to govern.”
During question period, a Pitt Meadows resident accused councillors of being in a conflict of interest by voting on the amalgamation issue – presumably because it could affect their offices.
He did not receive a response to that particular remark.