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Westlock County contemplates five-seat council

But any change to the number of councillors won’t happen until at least 2025
westlock county
Westlock County council has started looking at reducing the number of divisions in the municipality from seven to five.
WESTLOCK - Westlock County is looking at reducing the number of sitting councillors from seven to five.

It won’t happen until likely 2025, but councillors were interested in what a reduction would save the county.

Originally, they intended for the reduction to take effect in 2021, but the process outlined in the Municipal Government Act is too lengthy and it involves changing the division boundary lines.

“One of the big (reasons) involved is the cost,” said reeve Jared Stitsen. On average, a county councillor makes around $52,000 in salary including benefits, training and other costs.

“We wanted it go to back to the public, it has to go back to the public to see what their opinion was. Even when I was campaigning people were talking about the amount of councillors for Westlock County and the possibility of the reduction. It’s been on council’s radar to go to the public with this and see their thoughts on it.”

The length of time it would take to make the change, however, was unexpected: “I didn’t think it’d take that long to go through this process. We’re kind of restrained with time.”

But that’s not the end of the road for this idea, according to Stitsen.

“It’s ultimately still going to go to the public. We’re still going to be pursuing that, but it’s not going to be done in time for this next election. … We’ll have the work done, we want to get the public consultation and all that part done,” said Stitsen.

The idea was brought to administration at the end of October, said interim CAO Rick McDonald via e-mail. It was discussed in camera at the Nov. 10 meeting, when admin told council that the reduction couldn’t happen before the Oct. 18, 2021 election.

The bylaw has to be passed before Dec. 31, 2020 and they must do a 60-day petition period prior to the vote.

“Council then directed administration to determine whether or not there was another way that a councillor reduction could take place. It has been determined that a councillor reduction cannot be completed prior to 2021 election,” McDonald wrote.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that a councillor's average yearly wage includes benefits. A previous version wrongly stated that $52,000 covered only the salary.

Andreea Resmerita,