Council adopts capital budget to prepare for growth

After nearly 10 hours of lively debate, Red Deer city council adopted a $102.7-million capital budget that focuses on preparing infrastructure for growth on Tuesday. In the next few years, the city will need to prepare for the growth in northeast Red Deer, Queens Industrial Park and potentially in the southeast, and north of Hwy 11A.

After nearly 10 hours of lively debate, Red Deer city council adopted a $102.7-million capital budget that focuses on preparing infrastructure for growth on Tuesday.

In the next few years, the city will need to prepare for the growth in northeast Red Deer, Queens Industrial Park and potentially in the southeast, and north of Hwy 11A.

Mayor Tara Veer said there’s investment in the community in very practical and methodological ways that will prepare the community for the future.

“In this budget we actually see a greater shift toward pay as you go capital, which has been a personal goal of mine, so I am pleased to see this occur in this budget,” said Veer.

The final tally came in roughly $1.3 million under the $104 million administration-recommendation presented budget on Monday.

Staff withdrew the request for a new signal at Austin Drive and 40th Avenue and the Michener Centre/50-metre pool feasibility study and corrected the error in the inflation increase on previous projects to reduce the overall budget.

The 88 multi-year and single-year projects range from small-ticket items, such as the $40,000 allocated for the South Hill Community Hall upgrades, to the 30th Avenue and 67th Street roundabout.

At a price tag of $17 million over two years, the roundabout is one of the most important projects accommodating growth in the 2014 capital budget, said Curtis.

Council approved the two-year $17 million project with $9.4 million allocated in 2014 and another $7.6 million in 2015.

Coun. Paul Harris said putting in another roundabout makes financial sense because of the major cost savings around using less land than traditional overpasses.

First-time councillor Coun. Lawrence Lee called the roundabout a “no brainer” saying it’s not just about the roundabout itself but forward thinking and the functionally of the configuration. He said the traffic flow will double in that corridor of the city in the next 10 or 15 years.

“We look at it as a big cost item but I always measure it back to the priority that is placed on the utilization of a structural change like a roadway and the value we will get back,” said Lee. “I certainly see this in this plan.”

Coun. Tanya Handley, another new councillor, said she was pleased with the overall budget that boasted solid building blocks and essential services for the community. But Handley did try to follow through on a campaign promise to revisit the Ross Street and Taylor Drive intersection realignment project. The item came up during the debate for $525,000 for the Alexander Way – Phase 3 – 54th Avenue to River Plaza, part of the overall project.

Handley unsuccessfully tried to rescind both the reconfiguration and budget related to the project after an in camera session. She said she appreciated the opportunity to talk about the issue because she heard on the campaign trail there were concerns in the community.

“It was a fair process,” said Handley. “It got voted down. I am OK with that. That’s the way it works.”

Curtis said the city would lose essentially $1 million in planning if the project was halted.

Councillors did not support Handley’s motion but stressed the importance of communicating any major infrastructure changes with the community. Some noted the bike lane project that did not go over well with a large majority of residents in the city.

Coun. Ken Johnston said there are gaps in communication that need to be addressed in going forward in creative and innovative ways.

Johnston, the third rookie on council, said the capital budget addresses the underpinnings of growth which isn’t always glamourous.

“Roads and electric, light and power, water mains and all those things are not glamourous but they are so needed particularly in the northeast quadrant of the city and the newly annexed lands,” said Johnston. “It’s a must to have. Developers just won’t move once they are in there you can expect Red Deer to continue on the growth curve that we have been experiencing. So from that perspective, the capital budget was a huge win for the community.”

Capital budget highlights:

• Council directed administration to draft a report on sport field developments including the needs of slo pitch and soccer and have it brought to the mid-year budget meeting for council’s consideration.

• The Collicutt Centre will receive a $99,000 boost to develop a parking strategy to deal with the parking pressures at the highly used facility.

• Construction of the downtown off-leash dog park will move ahead. Last year, council approved $16,000 for the planning stages and this year the project will be completed with $34,000 for construction. The city is looking at four potential sites. The park is expected to be open for the dogs by late spring or early summer.

• Just over $4 million was allocated to the Corporate Services Division including $3.4 million for the multi-year Enterprise Business Applications Architecture project. Council had previously approved $2.2 million for the project that will keep the city’s systems up-to-date and paint a road map for the business, software and systems.

The city manager’s office was given a $1.9 million boost that included $260,000 for City Hall renovations.

• The River Bend water intake system will get a much-needed $1 million infusion over two years to repair or replace its armoury that was washed away due to regular wear and tear and the 2005 and 2013 floods. This is the system that diverts water from the Red Deer River to the ponds and Discovery Canyon. The city has applied for grant money from the province.

Council approved the one-time request of $200,000 over two years to replace urban trees that have died because of tree pest infestations, disease and storms. There are currently an estimated 1,350 trees that need replacement.

• Transmission stations, newly annexed area — $8,925,000

• Phase 1B-1-30th Avenue, two-lane from Northland Drive to 67th Street — $8,085,000

• Pavement rehabilitation program (crown paving) — $7,938,000

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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