‘About time’: Black Diamond and Turner Valley ready to become one, but resistance remains

A welcome to Black Diamond sign was photographed on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Black Diamond and nearby Turner Valley are commencing the final process to amalgamate.

Nearly eight months after Black Diamond moved its boundary up against neighbouring Turner Valley, Ruth Goodwin says it’s time to erase it.

A notion to amalgamate the two scenic foothills towns dating back more than three decades could soon be a reality, its final impetus being the suddenly escalating costs of policing, said the mayor of Black Diamond.

“Because of police costs, it does not make sense to hold off on amalgamation — we are already paying that now,” Goodwin said of the tab for RCMP

passed on to small towns by the UCP government

.

Fusing the two towns would create an entity of more than 5,000 people that would be eligible for policing grants, to eliminate a cost of $320,000 over five years for Black Diamond alone, she said.

In 2016, the population of Black Diamond was 2,700, slightly exceeding Turner Valley’s 2,559.

But the desire to become one town goes well beyond policing and into realizing efficiencies from the elimination of one town council and a chief administrative officer.

That could save about $350,000, with the consolidation of other services and infrastructure bringing costs down further, said Goodwin.

It would require a Canadian first: a mutually-agreed-upon, joint submission to amalgamate being accepted by a provincial government, said the 20-year Black Diamond resident.

“This has never been done before — both town councils believing this is the best thing for their communities,” said Goodwin, noting that submission is to be sent to

new Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard

for consideration.

“There are a lot of people here saying, ‘it’s about time, get it over with.’ ”

The two communities already share a host of services and have been inching closer, said Goodwin, particularly in the past decade.

Not so clear cut is what that unified entity would be named, she said.

While it’s expected both towns would retain their current names to denote separate neighbourhoods, it’ll be up to public feedback to settle on a shared moniker, with Diamond Valley being an obvious contender, said Goodwin.

“That seems to be a big deal, a real concern for residents who are so proud and loyal to where they live,” she said.

But some in the area say the spectre of a 2007 plebiscite, which narrowly rejected amalgamation and showed a split in opinion between the towns, remains.

Black Diamond resident Garry McCarroll said he’s opposed to uniting the towns, saying the costs could outweigh the savings.

And he said there’s resistance in the town that was expressed when Black Diamond residents rejected amalgamation in 2007 by a more than two-to-one margin, while those in Turner Valley voted in favour by a much smaller edge.

 The Black Diamond Hotel in the town’s centre was photographed on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Black Diamond and nearby Turner Valley are commencing the final process to amalgamate.

“That sentiment hasn’t changed very much,” said McCarroll.

“There’s a lot of emotional baggage between the two towns, some of the old-timers still have a certain amount of animosity.”

One of those points of contention, he said, was the move of the area’s hospital from Turner Valley to Black Diamond in 1984.

Third-generation Turner Valley resident Kara Martin said she supports unifying the communities, and isn’t opposed to the Diamond Valley name as long as both can retain their historic titles.

“There’s lots of duplications and there could be a lot of benefits in helping each other, and maybe we could bring our property taxes down,” said Martin, who runs arts and crafts business Color Me Crazy in Turner Valley.

But she said residents in her town are divided over amalgamation, with some concerned about losing services and government grants.

“People are nervous about what they don’t understand,” said Martin.

With both town councils united on the issue, Goodwin insisted there’s no need for another plebiscite.

And she’s confident upcoming negotiations and public consultations will lead to a provincial green light and amalgamation within two years.

Turner Valley Mayor Barry Crane wasn’t available for comment.

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Twitter:

@BillKaufmannjrn

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