Regional transit service to go ahead
A regional transit service connecting three Central Alberta municipalities and the purchase of a new Action Bus received Red Deer city council’s stamp of approval on Tuesday.
Council voted to proceed with negotiations with the City of Lacombe and the Town of Blackfalds for a regional transit service. An agreement is to be based on full cost recovery, including covering operating, replacement costs and administration fees.
The city will purchase two buses ($900,000 total) with Blackfalds and Lacombe contributing one-third of the cost on the condition of a successful agreement. The city would pay two-thirds of the cost by reassigning provincial GreenTrip funds and the buses would be housed in Red Deer.
Deputy Mayor Buck Buchanan was pleased the regional transit service is finally on the road. Buchanan said this has been in the works for several years and this is needed for the region.
“We’re all in this game together,” said Buchanan. “The better we can make Red Deer, the better it is going to get for everybody.”
Buchanan said this opens the door for services throughout the region.
The new $70,000 Action Bus will join the fleet sometime in the first quarter of 2014.
Greg Scott, director of Community Services, said the new bus will help address the growing needs of the specialized service.
As part of its annual mid-year budget review process, council approved new financial requests and deferred others.
Dean Krejci, Financial Services manager, said the changes had minor impacts to the 2013 operating and capital budgets because the costs were offset by grants and adjustments. He said the 2014 operating budget was increased by $193,000 this year and $53,000 ongoing as a result.
Krejci said the changes made to the capital program were not funded out of debt. Instead, they came from the capital reserves fund and have no impact on the current debt. Krejci told council on Tuesday that the city hasn’t incurred any new debt in the first six months of the year. As of June, the debt balance is $199.1 million and the debt balance forecast for 2013 is $260.5 million. The city is at about 46 per cent of its provincially set debt limit.
Krejci said the city is in good financial shape but the capital projects reserve fund is one area of concern. Current projections show the city will be in a deficit of $2 million if it follows through on its more than 130 capital projects planned. He said this will be addressed when the city goes through the 2014 capital budget and the 10-year capital plan.
In other budgetary issues discussed on Tuesday:
l The Red Deer City Soccer Association and the Central Alberta Slo-Pitch Associations’ requests for the financial support were deferred to the 2014 capital budget debate, to take place on Nov. 26. This way, the requests will be heard at the same time as all the other capital requests.
l Council agreed to increase the 2014 operating budget by $163,000 to pay for an annual municipal census.
l The bumpy ride may soon be over for Red Deer motorists.
City manager Craig Curtis told council that the $12.7-million road maintenance budget is the largest investment in road work in the history of the city. Curtis said it looked like someone was tossing small grenades all over the city when they looked at the roads after the spring melt.
As of Aug. 1, roughly 8,500 potholes have been fixed out of the projected 14,000 to be competed this year.
Two frost boils have been repaired and 14 are outstanding.
Crown paving has been completed in 14 areas and 29 areas are outstanding.
Curtis said the city had a fairly large number of potholes and frost boils that had accumulated after two years of very damaging freeze-thaw cycles. He said the city has made huge inroads in the work so far this year and expects major improvement at the end of the cycle.
l School sites, including the recreation areas, will soon be exempt from paying offsite levies.
Council voted 9-0 in favour of directing administration to develop the 2014 Off Site Levy Bylaw to exclude high school sites from the service basis. The decision follows the local school board’s inability and the province’s refusal to cost share in the plans for the proposed high schools and recreation sites in northeast Red Deer.
“This adds a huge amount to the cost of development generally, whether it is being borne by a private developer or a school district,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling. “In this case, the province has said we are simply not paying those because in a sense it is one government paying one government.”
Flewwelling said this puts the school boards at real disadvantage if they are not working with their municipalities. “Council has made the decision we will share it over the whole city,” he said. “It won’t be just this quarter section or that quarter section. It now becomes part of the overall levy costs. Everything is going to be taxed a little piece for that site.”
City council had budgeted roughly $9 million for the site acquisition and subdivision and site concept planning. Without the offsite levies, the city will retain $6.3 million for the project.
Council also directed an advocacy effort to outline the concerns identified by council with respect to the responsibilities municipalities have to assume because of provincial downloading with respect to education infrastructure.
l Council heard an update on the progress of the city’s six charters (or major work plans) — movement, identity, safety, economy, dialogue and design. Lisa Perkins, director of Corporate Transformation, said in the last year all the strategies related to the six charters were completed and progress has been made in all six areas. Of a total of 27 strategies in the six charters, 12 are pending and 15 are complete.
“We are where we should be as we are halfway through council’s strategic plan,” said Perkins