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Will city’s debt hold back progress?

Prior to the municipal election of 2013, a candidate had offered that the city owed nearly a whopping “quarter of a billion” dollars: approximately $240 million in capital debt with a debt limit of $449 million.

Remember, at 90 per cent of our debt limit or $404 million, we will get flagged by the province, and we may not be able to afford a natural disaster.

We have a new council, albeit one facing the same fiscal restraints. If we assume that council wishes to stay under the 90 per cent limit or $404 million, council has $164 million to play with.

We have two traffic intersections, already eating almost $37 million of that amount.

The Canada Winter Games could cost us $100 million with $23 million in total coming from the provincial and federal governments.

The ring road is being developed and a bridge will be built and again at costs that will be enormous, with a share going to the city.

Next we have the Riverlands development. With talk of a water feature, a pedestrian bridge over the river to Bower Ponds, we could be on the hook for millions. Remember, it cost over a $100 million to build the new public yard so we can have this bare land.

The city is running low on available developable land for residential and they are already seeing a decrease in building permits losing out to places like Blackfalds. An area north of Hwy 11A around Hazlett Lake, if developed, could attract investments.

There are 1,300 hectares available north of Hwy 11A, or about 3,000 acres. Let us assume we can only realize 1,000 acres of residential with seven units per acre: 7,000 homes could be built for a value of $2 billion, offering economic growth and tax revenue. But will the city have the necessary capacity to proceed?

Those 7,000 homes means 20,000 residents are going to need things like a firehall, busing, recreational facilities, policing, etc. Without these, the city could have 7,000 empty lots and unmanageable debt.

Twenty years ago, the city planned on growth in the southeast. It took courage and it took debt to develop the southeast, build the Collicutt Centre, which has become a city jewel.

Do we have the courage and the debt capacity to do it in the northwest part of the city? I am not sure.

Garfield Marks

Red Deer



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