Augusta Township and Prescott have forged a unique partnership to bring economic development to their municipalities.
Using modernization money from the provincial government, Augusta and Prescott have commissioned a large-scale engineering study to look at the cost of extending the town’s water and sewer to parts of the township, as well as land-use and planning issues.
Announcing the bi-municipal deal at his annual mayor’s breakfast on Friday, Augusta Mayor Doug Malanka said the study will initially focus on the 401 corridor, but the area could extended as far as the Maitland area, where the township is hoping to inject new life into the Invista plant.
He said the plan would have the somewhat unwieldy name of “The Highway 401 and Adjacent Lands Economic Development Strategy.”
The engineering studies will be done in parallel with a services-review study, which will look at ways the town and township can co-operate to save money. That study will also be funded by the same pot of “modernization” money from the government.
Prescott Mayor Brett Todd said the deal is the largest partnership ever between two municipalities in this area.
The idea is that the two municipalities could “operate as one entity” when it comes to economic development, Todd said.
In Malanka’s words, the municipalities want to offer a “single window of access” for developers interested in the area.
Both Malanka and Todd stressed that their co-operation wasn’t a precursor to amalgamation. Rather, they characterized it as good neighbours working together for their mutual benefit.
“We have such a great relationship with Augusta, we talk constantly,” said Todd. “There’s a good friendship here and a common vision of where Prescott and Augusta want to move.”
Malanka told the breakfast gathering that Augusta is a rural community that values its agricultural roots and that the agreement with Prescott won’t detract from its rural character.
As part of the studies, Malanka said, the consultants will look at revenue-sharing – a subject that is near and dear to Prescott municipal leaders.
He said the study will “explore resource- and revenue-sharing models” to attract economic development for the mutual advantage of both municipalities.
Prescott council has complained for years that it gets a raw deal from its relationship with Edwardsburgh/Cardinal. The town supplied water and sewer to the booming industrial area of the township, which then reaped the tax benefits of increased assessment. Prescott, meanwhile, only got a fee for providing services.
Both mayors noted that the agreement is building on existing good-neighbour relations between Augusta and Prescott.
Prescott has agreed to extend water and sewer service to a 21-home subdivision planned for Augusta just on Prescott’s western border.
Prescott is also supporting the Aquaworld development just to the north in Augusta, and Augusta has been vocal in supporting town’s application for provincial grants to build a replacement for the Leo Boivin Arena.
Malanka said the agreement will advance economic-development progress in an area that is ripe for development. The area is close to numerous markets: Highway 416 connects it to Ottawa and the 401 puts it halfway between Montreal and Toronto. The international bridge at Johnstown provides access to American markets.
“We also have a motivated population that wants to keep our youth in the region and improve quality of life in the township,” said Malanka.
Todd said he expected the studies to take nine months to a year to finish. Any formal agreement between the municipalities would have to be approved by both councils.