Red Deer city council briefs – November 30

Red Deer city council will hold an out-of-town retreat once a year to avoid business and family distractions.

Council to take out-of-town retreat

Red Deer city council will hold an out-of-town retreat once a year to avoid business and family distractions.

Elected leaders decided on Monday that one annual retreat would be held in Central Alberta, possibly in Sylvan Lake or Lacombe, while another retreat would be held in town.

The first retreat, to be held in the spring, will be held somewhere outside of Red Deer. Council was told the difference in cost between an in-town and out-of-town retreat are the costs for mileage for hotels and mileage, or about $1,800 per retreat event.

Retreats have been held in recent years to allow council the chance to discuss serious topics over one or two days.

Councillors were largely supportive of having one in town and another one outside Red Deer, saying it was a good idea to be out of town for one of the retreats because it helps with relationship building.

Councillor Cindy Jefferies said she appreciates being out of town because the retreat helps her to stay focused on the duties at hand.

“We get to have deeper discussions,” Jefferies said. “It’s time well spent.”

Councillor Frank Wong said he remembered the first retreat he took part in several years ago in Edmonton. Six councillors travelled together during poor weather, which he noted wasn’t a good idea in case something should have happened on the road.

He said his colleagues were still checking their cellphones during break time. Costs could have also been reduced by holding the retreat in one day.

“There’s not all the wasted time driving,” said Wong.

He’d like to see one day in the city and maybe one day at Sylvan Lake or Lacombe, if necessary.

“We have facilities for retreats.”

Councillor Chris Stephan suggested banning cellphones at out-of-town retreats, a practice he said he’s experienced with other business get-aways.

“I think every dollar adds up so I would rather see a local retreat in 2011 (and revisit it from there),” said councillor Dianne Wyntjes.

Administration will develop a specific policy on retreats, including the use of cellphones.

Council authorizes emergency borrowing

The City of Red Deer has the possibility of borrowing up to $25 million during a short-term emergency.

Elected leaders approved on Monday the borrowing of funds for short-term operating purposes until taxes are collected.

The Municipal Government Act allows a municipality to borrow dollars for the purpose of financing operating expenses, providing the amount of such borrowing doesn’t exceed the amount that the municipality estimates will be raised in taxes in the year of the borrowing.

Council was told the proposed borrowing would not cause the city to exceed its debt limit.

Dean Krejci, financial services manager, explained the $25 million may be necessary for a big capital project and a government project hasn’t yet come through. This bylaw would apply for a three-year period.

The maximum rate of interest has been set at 10 per cent to allow for potential interest rate fluctuations during the three-year period the bylaw will be in effect.

Councillor Chris Stephan asked for the amount to be reduced to $5 million.

“While we can change this, I would suggest that you keep it at a high level — if we had a flood in the city and we had to fund this for a very short time, it could go over the $5 million,” said Corporate Services director Lorraine Poth.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said this bylaw doesn’t mean the city will be borrowing that amount.

“Only $1.18 million of $20 million (that could have been borrowed) was used in the last three years,” said Flewwelling.

Stephan opposed the bylaw.