City to seek public input as it drafts amenities wish list

An aquatics centre, a concert hall and a new multiplex may all have a spot on a list of planned amenities for the City of Red Deer.

An aquatics centre, a concert hall and a new multiplex may all have a spot on a list of planned amenities for the City of Red Deer.

The city is flipping the script on the way it determines the items in its capital budget and 10-year capital plan after council approved a new public consultation process on Monday.

Starting in April, residents will be consulted several times over the next few months as the city pieces together a list of amenities according to priority in the community.

In the past, council heard recommendations from administration and requests from community user groups to determine placing or consideration on the city’s capital infrastructure plan before voting.

Mayor Tara Veer said this may have worked in the past but given the economic realities and the growing community, it is no longer sustainable to just say yes or no to a user group that comes before council.

“We need to be able to have a sound mechanism by which council can say yes, no or not yet,” said Veer. “We need to do this with consultation with the community.”

Veer said she hopes that what emerges is a capital plan that is fair and equitable through a broad public consultation process.

Timing is crucial as council hopes to have the work completed in time to make better decisions during the 2015 Capital Budget and 2015-2024 Capital Plan in November.

Some councillors raised concerns about the short time frame for gathering input from the public in the spring and summer months.

City Manager Craig Curtis said that it is important to follow the time frames in order to be ready for the next budget cycle.

The priority list must be completed and receive the community’s stamp of approval by the end of September 2014.

Most councillors said this is a great opportunity to have more community conversations and to find out what Red Deerians really want in the community.

Coun. Lawrence Lee said he was encouraged as a new councillor to give the opportunity to residents to have a say on the amenities that will be built in the community.

Coun. Paul Harris said he has lived in Red Deer since 1990 and he does not remember being asked such a broad question before by council.

“I really encourage people to get out and participate in this because it’s going to inform us for the next few years,” said Harris. “It will really shape our city.”

At the same time, a new aquatics centre ad hoc committee will chart a vision for a new pool including the size, location, included amenities and phasing of a centre. During the 2013 capital budget talks in November, council directed administration to create an ad hoc committee to get a clear idea of the vision in early 2014.

No decisions have been made about the inclusion of a proposed pool in the city’s capital plan.

The first community consultation, Let’s Talk, is slated for April 12 at Parkland Mall.

More details will unfold over the coming weeks.

In other council news:

lCity council endorsed the first step of a plan that will ultimately outline how the city will respond to severe weather, flooding and drought and other effects of climate change.

Environmental Initiatives Supervisor Nancy Hackett said the city should strive to be resilient to what might happen and to recover quickly and have the capacity to adapt to stress or changes.

For example, the city sandbagged the water treatment plant during the June 2013 flooding. Hackett said there was no impact on the plant but the city had to be prepared. She said these are the things that communities have to think about from a city operations point of view.

Hackett presented the first of two reports that sets out the goals, the predicted impacts and five anticipated actions for Red Deer.

Hackett told council that some areas of concern include providing service and continuing operations, protecting and adapting transportation infrastructure, serving residents and protecting green.

The climate change project focuses on the city as a corporation as opposed to the community at large. The second part, to be completed in the coming months, will provide more detailed work on the corporate plan. A community plan is still a few years down the road.

lThe City of Red Deer has hired Sarah Cockerill of Fort St. John as the new director of community services replacing Greg Scott who retired earlier this year. Cockerill will arrive on April 7. City Manager Craig Curtis also announced Paul Goranson will take over the position of director of corporate services and Elaine Vincent will fill the position of director of development services as of March 31.

lExempt staff at the City of Red Deer will receive a two per cent general salary increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014. Council approved the wage hike affecting 140 exempt employees. The group includes managers, directors, supervisors, superintendents and specialists.

lCouncil directed staff to look into incorporating dedicated pollinator parks in existing and future park infrastructure. As well council directed administration to explore permanent banning of neonicotinoids and related pesticides in consideration with a report on pesticides coming to the Governance and Policy Committee later this year.