Policing and waste management priority for Red Deer city council
City council has business to settle before calling it a term in October.
With only nine months remaining before the next civic election, Red Deer councillors say there will be no slowing down as they try to make headway on a number of city projects, plans and policies.
High on the priority list is working with the RCMP following the much-anticipated police service levels and standards review. Once the standards are in place later this year, council will be in a better position to monitor whether the needs are being met in the community and to deploy the appropriate resources when required.
“We have been grappling with some of the challenges with our local priorities and our crime rate for a few years now,” said Coun. Tara Veer. “I think we absolutely need to make some headway on that file in 2013.”
Coun. Buck Buchanan said the city budget for 2013 is largely based around policing. Buchanan voted against keeping the RCMP in October 2011 after an extensive $150,000 policing and crime prevention study. Buchanan said he wanted to implement a hybrid municipal police force for a variety of reasons.
“But the bottom line to me is the service delivery,” said Buchanan, a retired RCMP officer.
Buchanan said council looks forward to working with the RCMP over the next year.
Also taking some space on the council’s plate is stamping approval on the Waste Management Master Plan. The community will get a sneak preview at the management plan at Monday’s council meeting.
“That will make a difference to the future in terms of the amount of waste we divert and how we can decrease the amount we divert,” said Coun. Lynne Mulder. “And our landfill will certainly last longer and it will be better for the environment.”
Some councillors said reducing the garbage bag limit to two from the allotted five bag limit per household will be on council’s “To Do” list.
“I don’t think anybody puts out five bags,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling. “I think it could be down to two for most households. If everybody puts out more than two and somebody puts out three because of an event at their house, let’s not get our knickers in a twist about that. If they did it regularly, they would have to start paying.”
The controversial bike lanes remain an issue that still has council’s full attention.
Coun. Cindy Jefferies said it is important that council monitor for improvements and share in conversations about the lanes with the community.
“I think in the summer we will see some more uptakes on the bike lanes,” said Jefferies. “I acknowledge they caused some grief in the winter months. That’s something we have to try and work on.”
Veer added progress needs to be made on the way people move throughout the city.
“I think that file actually took a step backwards in a sense around the controversy around the bike lanes,” said Veer. “I think there’s some general headway that needs to be done there and not just focusing on one type of movement.”
Moving along the economic development strategy for Riverlands also takes precedence. Coun. Paul Harris said the work that is done this year — that includes the hiring of a Riverlands co-ordinator, the detailed designs on the crossings to Riverlands, and the road at Taylor Drive and Ross Street — will pave the way for future development.
“The way that could affect our tax base is huge,” said Harris. “I think it is just money we have sitting on the table from a whole variety of perspectives (including) tourism, increased assessment values, the cultural value and the connection to our park systems. It’s part of the downtown strategy that really needs to come into its own.”
Councillors said it will not be all work and no play this year as Red Deer celebrates its centennial with community events and legacy projects, including the opening of the spray park in Clearview Ridge and the skate park in Glendale.
“The centennial will be a focus piece, which means we will reduce the amount of disruption on our roads and streets to a minimum,” said Flewwelling. “So when we have visitors back to Red Deer, they don’t see us all with piles of dirt.” He also pledged there would be no work on Red Deer bridges tying up traffic this summer.
Also on council’s agenda in 2013:
• Helping the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre find a location for its affordable housing/cultural centre. Jefferies said it is important to resolve this issue before the next council comes in to prevent further project delays.
• Coun. Frank Wong looks forward to moving ahead on the area structure plan for development north of Hwy 11A. “We shouldn’t annex all this land if we don’t have plans for it,” said Wong. “It’s going to start later this year. I waited eight years for this.”
• Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said there’s still work to be done on the welcoming community initiatives for new Red Deerians. Wyntjes said there’s a lot of good work underway but it’s important that community groups band together. Wyntjes also said it’s important for council to learn the issues facing new Canadians and new Red Deerians through working with the Central Alberta Refugee Effort.
• Coun. Chris Stephan said moving Red Deer into a ward system is high on his list. On Monday, council will discuss the resolution to add a plebiscite question on the next civic election ballot, put forward by Councillors Stephan, Wong and Buck Buchanan in December.
• Veer would like council to have more discussions on a financial policy, particularly in the balance between the debt load and reserve. “I think there is a couple of areas where council hasn’t taken a firm policy position,” said Veer. “You can see we are not making any headway on individual decisions because we lack a broader financial framework. Harris echoed her concern: “It’s not sexy stuff the community is going to see but it’s really important stuff.”