Townships step closer to amalgamation

It’s looking like the Corporation of the Township of Lake of the Woods may be a New Year’s baby as McCrosson-Tovell and Morson move to amalgamate for Jan. 1.
In the process, the new township would annex a large part of the unincorporated area on Lake of the Woods in the present school board boundary.
That would happen next July 1.
“It’s simply to give them a little bit more time to get themselves organized,” Morson Reeve Gord Prost explained, stressing they’ve been trying to make sure residents in the unincorporated area are kept informed all along.
The two townships, along with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, hosted public meetings this week in McCrosson-Tovell (Monday) and Morson (yesterday).
“I think one of the concerns had been . . . that we would lose our identity,” McCrosson-Tovell Reeve Valerie Pizey said of Monday’s meeting, stressing it was more of an administrative move and that the areas would retain their same legal description.
“But really, nobody had any major concerns,” she added.
The proposal now will go back to the ministry, which will advise the unincorporated areas (they also were invited to the public meetings). Then it will go before each council for a vote on at their September meetings.
From there, the package goes back to the ministry, which either accepts it or requests changes. Once accepted, it just needs the minister’s signature to take effect.
The new council would be elected in wards–two from McCrosson-Tovell and two from Morson (the unincorporated area would become part of Morson).
The head of council would be elected at large.
But that won’t happen until after the unincorporated areas were on board. Until then, an interim “mega-council” of 10 (five councillors each from Morson and McCrosson-Tovell) will be elected during the municipal race in November.
Meanwhile, Reeve Pizey admitted the savings wouldn’t be that big–maybe $10,000. For a $25,000 market-value household in Morson, that will mean an annual tax savings of $39 (from $137 to $98).
In McCrosson-Tovell, it would mean a $16.64 savings on the same market value (from $114.64 to $98).
“It’s the best option for the two of them,” explained Pat Giles, clerk for both townships, admitting it would be better for Morson just to annex the islands but they needed a double majority in order for that to be approved by the minister.
He also noted if they were to take in the unincorporated area to the south as well, that annual municipal tax bill would jump to $209 for that same $25,000 home.
“But that’s only municipal taxes,” Giles explained, noting the estimates were based on municipal costs before the provincial downloading.
But more important than the savings, Reeve Pizey is hoping the move will enable them to access some of the province’s transitional fund.
“I would say, from the point of view of McCrosson-Tovell, that it would [go ahead] because we had no opposition,” she noted.
“Personally, I think it’s something that we should’ve done regardless of all this downloading that’s going on,” agreed Reeve Prost.
“It just makes sense.”