Capital projects delayed?

Red Deer leaders are concerned that several large-scale projects will be delayed in 2010 because of fewer dollars being funneled to the municipality.

Red Deer leaders are concerned that several large-scale projects will be delayed in 2010 because of fewer dollars being funneled to the municipality.

City manager Craig Curtis warned on Monday that the city is considering postponing a number of significant capital projects until additional money is on hand. Among those affected include the city’s major municipal project, dubbed the north highway connector, for the northeast section of the city. The city hopes to construct a road embankment this year, but it’s unclear how much work will get done next year on the large road.

A number of recreation, parks and culture building projects may also be hampered.

“They won’t be on the chopping block, they would be postponed,” Curtis told reporters later Monday. “What I see is that our 10-year capital plan will be spread out over a much longer period. We just don’t know what level of funding will be coming in 2010 because the province gave us just under a $5-million cut this year.”

Mayor Morris Flewwelling could only speculate which recreational projects may be postponed.

It may involve delaying building trails in new park areas, or building an additional arena at the G.H. Dawe Centre.

“If we’re going to be short of capital dollars next year, we’re going to have to revisit certain projects,” said Flewwelling. “It’s not a matter of taking them out, but reshuffling them or deferring them.”

Recent reductions in provincial funding through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, projected reductions in tax revenues and new revenues and the 2011 deadline for federal stimulus fund projects are putting pressures on city coffers.

“We face a number of pressures this year, and it is no longer business as usual for us,” said Curtis. “Like every other municipality in the province and in fact across the country, we’re facing fairly dramatic financial change.”

Curtis said any sort of staff layoffs would be premature.

“We would look at attrition first if we needed to cut back,” he said. “I think what we’re looking at is not growing to the degree that we had. Any new resources we might need, we will do without.”

Budget-crunching is already underway for 2010.

City department staff are being told to make sure only critical items are requested.

Curtis said the city is not expecting any additional dollars from the province in 2010. The city must prepare for that.

And there may be some relief with lower construction costs due to a slower economy. But it won’t be enough, Curtis added.

“With the 15 to 20 per cent savings in construction costs, the actual magnitude of the dollars we are not getting more than offsets that,” he said.

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