City air quality falls short of benchmark

Red Deer’s air quality fell short of reaching the Environmental Master Plan’s benchmark for 2012.

Red Deer’s air quality fell short of reaching the Environmental Master Plan’s benchmark for 2012.

Council heard a year end report card highlighting the plan’s progress made in 2012 on Tuesday. The report was the second since the plan was adopted in 2011.

Nancy Hackett, the city’s Environmental Initiatives supervisor, said the momentum from 2011 is continuing but there are some issues that need more attention including waste management, waste diversion and air quality. Air quality was the only metric or focus area that did not see any improvements.

“Overall Red Deer has pretty good air quality,” said Hackett. “If you look at all the factors that measure air quality it is only the particulate matter that we’re exceeding the standard. That’s something we want to address. We want to continue having that good air quality.”

Through various programs and initiatives and by working with Alberta Environment the city hopes to address the air issue in 2013.

Hackett said there has been come great progress in water conservation and some of the energy initiatives in 2012. For example, water consumption per capita has reduced to 210 litres from 240 litres over the last 12 months.

Council also directed administration to conduct research and develop options including regulations, restrictions or criteria for owning wood fire boilers in the city. While the outdoor wood fired heaters or wood fire boilers are not common in Red Deer, they are marketed at home shows in Central Alberta.

As wood fire boilers are a known contributor to air pollution, the environmental advisory committee recognized this as an opportunity to be proactive in regulating or placing some restrictions on these type of wood burning appliances.

There are no specific written policies municipal restrictions in Red Deer for wood boilers aside from the Alberta Building Code’s general requirements.

In the next year, the city will continue to look at ways to green its fleet, reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and other projects.

In other council news:

• Coun. Frank Wong announced on Tuesday he will seek a fourth-term on council. Wong was the final member of council to announce his intentions for the Oct. 21 civic election. Wong, 64, said he was encouraged by the community to run again and he wants to continue serving all Red Deerians.

Wong said he has unfinished business left including working on the Intermunicipal Development Plan with the County of Red Deer and advancing the opportunities for residents living in north Red Deer. Wong was first elected in 2004.

• The City of Red Deer will continue to support the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA) in its efforts to bring the impacts of poverty to the forefront in Red Deer, poverty reduction initiatives and to develop a living wage for the city.

But the decision did not come swiftly as debate of a living wage and the city’s role in ending poverty heated up council chambers.

Coun. Chris Stephan questioned whether the municipal government should delve into social issues. Stephan said the city should focus on things within its own jurisdiction.

“I think people have the freedom to make choices,” said Stephan. “I think we need to give people the freedom to choose their (life). If society wants to end poverty, it is not going to be done by governments sticking its head in there and forcing people to do what it thinks is the right thing. It’s by people using their free agency to make good choices. That’s what we should be encouraging. It’s not the government forcing things down people’s throats.”

Coun. Buck Buchanan said the notice of motion was put forward by CAPRA and shows what they are seeing in the community. Buchanan said poverty is real issue in the province and in Red Deer.

“For a municipal government not to be a partner at the table dealing with this then shame on us,” said Buchanan. “I think we are doing the right thing. We are saying the right things but we better get it right.”

Buchanan said he does not suggest government will rectify the issue indefinitely but must be a player a the table.

In 2014, the city will continue its work on its Social Master Plan that will ultimately determine its role in various initiatives.

• A proposed parking lot for Jackpot Casino will not go ahead on 4643 50th street and 4637 50th Street in Parkvale. First reading of a land use bylaw amendment that would allow for the construction was defeated. The land is currently zoned for single family dwelling and duplexes under the City of Red Deer’s Land Use bylaw. In April, the two buildings on the site – Botterill House and a bungalow – were demolished.

Council said there are opportunities to work with the owner to meet its parking needs. The Parkvale Community Association does not support a parking lot.

• The City of Red Deer is about to touch gloves with the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission. Council agreed to enter into talks with the City of Edmonton to act as the commission overseeing mixed martial arts, boxing and other combative sports competitions in Red Deer.