More than $10 million to purchase Michener Centre land was included in the City of Red Deer’s $47-million of capital borrowing, approved Monday by council.
The borrowing bylaws included $10.1 million for “parks expansion.” The city’s CAO Dean Krejci said this money is needed for the city to purchase land around the closed Michener Centre North site from the provincial government.
City officials say the final price has not yet been determined, however, and will depend on the state of the land once remediation is done to clear soil of contaminants.
Plans for the 132-acres of mature treed parkland on top of the Gaetz Lakes escarpment have not yet been determined. But this scenic parcel that provides connections to the Waskasoo Park and trail system and contains natural wetlands, continues to be popular with walkers, people with dogs, runners and cyclists.
The province had previously stated that demolition of the Michener Centre buildings, which have been empty since 2015, was to start by the end of 2020. But so far, the fenced-off, boarded-up buildings remain standing.
On Monday, city approved $33 million in borrowing to pay for various capital projects in 2021. As well, a further $14 million in capital budget debt was approved for approved projects for 2022.
These projects include road reconstruction, intersection realignments, sanitation lines, building maintenance, improved drainage around Hazlett Lake, the G.H. Dawe Recreation Centre upgrade, and many other items.
There was some debate over extending the term of a $30-million in overdraft for the city from three to four years, lasting until 2025. Coun. Vesna Higham questioned the wisdom of this council “tying the hands of a new council” with the time frame of this overdraft when an election will be held this fall.
But other councillors considered it good planning.
City Manager Allan Seabrooke said there will be a rare occasion to use this overdraft. But in this pandemic time of uncertainty, it’s good financial planning to have the ability to do some short-term borrowing, if needed, he added.
Krejci said the total amount of 2021-22 city borrowing falls within council’s pre-set guideline of being at 75 per cent of the provincially allowed debt load for municipalities.