City staff recommend Abbotsford leave Fraser Valley Regional Dstrict

Abbotsford’s days as a member of the Fraser Valley Regional District may be numbered.

City staff have recommended leaving the organization in favour of a single tier governance format. Under such a system, the city would be the sole governing body for all services and could save as much as $1.5 million a year.

“If you ask most residents in Abbotsford, ‘What do we get from the FVRD?’ they’d be hard pressed to find an answer,” said Mayor George Peary.

In 2010, Abbotsford paid approximately $2.5 million in tax requisition and half a million dollars in user fees to the FVRD.

That equates to almost half (49 per cent) of the total funding.

City manager Frank Pizzuto said the staff report indicates Abbotsford “does not get 50 per cent of the benefits” for its contribution.

“This is not a new idea. We have been working on this for the last year,” said Pizzuto.

Last week, the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce released an eight-page report, calling for the city’s withdrawal from the FVRD, and pushing the issue into the public forum.

Some of the services provided by the district include 911 and fire dispatch, air quality management and regional development.

Peary said to put things in perspective, the FVRD has one engineer while Abbotsford has 18.

“They can offer us nothing,” he said.

A majority of the cost ($1.2 million) goes to government and administration expenses.

Peary said the move would keep more cost-effective options open to the city, thus benefitting taxpayers.

Similar to the water and sewer agreements between Abbotsford and Mission, the city could negotiate with other communities to provide services on a joint level, at a lower cost than the FVRD.

Peary suggested the new E-Comm communication system for the Abbotsford Police could provide 911 service for this area as well.

Any decision will have a huge impact on other members of the FVRD, especially Mission.

Abbotsford has several partnerships with its neighbouring city and Peary said more would be welcomed.

“Mission will have to decide what it wants to do in the coming months,” said Peary.

Yesterday (Monday) council was scheduled to debate the issue during its executive meeting.

“I think it (withdrawing) has some appeal, but it’s not my decision. It’s a council decision,” said Peary.

Abbotsford would have to approach Victoria for permission to make the change, but Peary doesn’t believe that would be an issue.