City council taking its time with Capital Budget debate

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
November 29, 2017 - 8:22pm

Red Deer city council’s work through the 2018 Capital Budget is slow going.

The proposed $81 million unveiled earlier this month is the smallest in a decade.

Speaking at City Hall on Wednesday, Mayor Tara Veer suggested there are a couple reasons behind why debate is taking slightly longer than normal.

“First and foremost, we continue to be in a recessed economy,” she said. “With some uncertainty around provincial and local economic conditions, particularly grants from other orders of government, there’s certainly mindfulness towards our financial responsibilities to the people of Red Deer.”

Veer listed there being a fresh council and the fact council now has to weigh in the 10-year Capital Plan as other contributing factors to the longer debate times.

On Wednesday, council approved one cost reduction for Capital Project Design, an item pegged at $330,000. The item is described as advance dollars for in-house design of future capital projects, the purpose being to be proactive in responding to changing construction and development priorities. Council agreed to reduce that allocation to $200,000.

Other noteworthy items approved on day one of the 2018 Capital Budget include:

- $254,000 towards planning for the revitalization of Riverside Meadows and Fairview, a project being undertaken by Engineering, Public Works, Environmental Services, EL&P and Parks;

- $62,000 to install two new bulk water stations in Queen’s Park and Clearview, to be used by construction companies or others for water fill-up. This will negate the need for hydrant use and improve keeping track of how much water is used;

- $152,000 for new second floor washrooms at City Hall;

- $654,000 for upgrades to the entrance of City Hall Park off the west entrance to City Hall, where current pavement is cracked and hazardous. The project will also include new flagpoles and will go forward on the condition council gets a report back about flag protocol;

- $570,000 to install solar panels on the roof of Sorensen Station;

- $127,000 for the construction of a new Fire Training Facility;

- $208,960 to replace the aging elevator at the downtown branch of the library and another $40,000 to upgrade the library’s wireless infrastructure;

-  $807,000 to replace the roof of the water park area at the Collicutt Centre; and

- $1.78 million to re-do the parking lot at the new Servus Arena, which will eventually once again be the home for the Red Deer market. Council voted 5-4 against amending the amount to $1.2 million, some arguing it should be built up as much as possible. Others said the amount was way too much. The item eventually passed 6-3. The project will also incorporate a promenade extension, electrical, lighting, pageantry and signage considerations.

On Thursday, council will debate the remainder of the 2018 Capital Budget line items, as well as the Capital Plan, including some operating dollars which would allow the Servus Arena to open in January, well ahead of schedule.

Council has also received a request from the Red Deer Pickleball Club, which states the club has found a suitable location for a new 20-court facility. Not having one was one reason the $1 million item was moved out of the 2018 Budget and into 2019.

The club would like council to consider moving it back to 2018 so it may be built and then the club may be able to bid for upcoming national, regional and provincial tournaments. The club says a recent national tournament in Kelowna, BC drew 430 competitors and was a boon for the local economy.

Debate resumes Thursday at 9 a.m. at in City Council Chambers.

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