Red Deer’s biggest closest neighbour to the north marked its new status as a city Tuesday.
It was in 2005 the town reached a population of 10,000 which is the usual point where city status is considered. But Lacombe officials held off on pursuing it until a deal with the province on extensive upgrades to Hwy 2A could be worked out.
That way, the community wouldn’t have to shoulder as much of the cost.
The last census showed Lacombe’s population at 11,733.
Mayor Judy Gordon said the town had been negotiating with the provincial government for some time to put together an agreement for the project.
“That was signed in October of 2009,” she said. “When I look back, it was way back in the late 1980s under my signature when I was mayor then that we asked the Alberta government to please consider doing some major upgrades to Highway 2A. So I feel good that after all this time, we’re able to say an agreement has been signed and this will be done.”
Gordon said the province will pay for 83% of the upgrades with Lacombe covering the remaining costs. As to the total expense, Gordon said officials would know more specifics later this fall.
Celebrations in honour of the new city status, which became official Monday, were held in the Lest We Forget Park on the south side of the Lacombe Memorial Centre Tuesday afternoon. Many dignitaries were onhand including Premier Ed Stelmach and Luke Ouellette, minister of transportation and MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.
“I feel really good about it, and I feel that this is a very positive move for Lacombe. Over the years, we will certainly see the benefits of moving to city status,” said Gordon.
For many folks, there won’t be truly significant changes.
“A lot does remain status quo,” said Gordon. “Sometimes it’s more perception. Maybe businesses, — commercial and industrial — look at you and see you as more of a growing, progressive community,” she said. “And that is something we are trying to entice to Lacombe is more business.”
Gordon said that within Alberta today, there are 17 cities but numerous municipalities overall. “When you sit down to talk about issues, it’s better to be sitting with those whose needs are more similar to your own, and work that way. We are one of those 17 now.”
Meanwhile, Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling said there would be some changes municipally for Lacombe.
“One thing that will change will be their highways inside the City will become the responsibility of the City. That is an additional expensive burden,” he said.
“Other than that I don’t think much will change for the average citizen in Lacombe. It is a milestone for them. We did it in 1913 and we are heading to our centennial in 2013.”
He also said it will not change how Red Deer has to do business with Lacombe.
“We will still draw a number of people from Lacombe every day to Red Deer for work. We will still send some people from Red Deer to Lacombe for work.”
Flewwelling said between 15,000 and 18,000 people come into Red Deer every day.
“While we have a population of about 90,000 we really have a working population of over 100,000 every day.”