On April 11, history was made in Burns Lake.
For the first time, a full service agreement was signed by the Village of Burns Lake and the Burns Lake Band.
A special meeting of council was held, in which village mayor and council met with chief and council of the Burns Lake Band to move the relationship between the two groups forward.
The full service agreement is comprised of two separate agreements for water and sewer services and municipal services.
Burns Lake Band reserve residents will now receive all of the municipal services that village taxpayers receive including animal control, fire protection, water and sewer as well as garbage collection and snow clearing.
The agreement covers services for 2011 and a longer term full service agreement is expected to be negotiated this fall.
Village council and the Burns Lake Band have been holding joint council meetings regularly since November 2010 in an effort to discuss items of mutual interest and during these meetings the Burns Lake Band council expressed an interest in developing the service agreement.
Previously the Burns Lake Band and the village had in place a partial service agreement which was negotiated 10 years ago and provided only for water, sewer and fire protection.
“This is pretty special for us,” said village mayor Bernice Magee to Lakes District News.
“It is something we have wanted for many years and it now gives us an opportunity to make joint decisions to benefit the community,” she added.
She went on to say that the Burns Lake Band agreement is very similar to the full service agreement the village already has with Lake Babine Nation.
“Now the Burns Lake Band will receive the same benefits as any other village tax payer,” mayor Magee said.
The full service agreement extends to Dec. 31, 2011 after which time the village and the Burns Lake Band plan to look at signing a five to 10 year agreement. “This interim agreement will also give us the opportunity to iron out any kinks,” she said adding that an interim agreement was decided upon as they are already mid way through the municipal tax year.
According to mayor Magee, the agreement is based on comparable tax rates on the houses and businesses located on the Burns Lake Band’s reserve.
Burns Lake Band Chief Albert Gerow said the signing of the agreement is a significant step forward for both the village and the band.
“We have been negotiating this for a while and want to provide an equal level of service to our members as received by the neighbouring community,” he said.
Chief Gerow also added that the full service agreement is what the past Burns Lake Band chief and council were also working towards.
Mayor Magee added, “Signing the agreement is the beginning of a good partnership and it is laying the foundation for other potential partnerships to come forward.”
The full service interim agreement began on April 4, 2011.
The full service agreement will be reviewed on Dec. 31, 2011, at this time any changes can be made and a new five to 10 year agreement is set to be signed.