‘Emerging needs’ lead Red Deer city council to approve more capital expenditures

New ambulances, buried powerlines and regional water/sewer project are funded

Red Deer City Council approved $5 million more in 2017 capital budget funding on Tuesday to accommodate some “immediate needs.”

The replacement of two ambulances, funding for a north regional water and sewer line, and the burial of overhead power lines along part of 48th Avenue — in front of the “Canada Games Celebration Plaza” at the old Central School site — are some of the new items approved in the 2017 mid-year budget review.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said she generally doesn’t like adding to capital budgets mid-year, but believes these projects are time-sensitive.

The most debated item was the project to bury the overhead power lines on the east side of 48th Avenue. While Counc. Tanya Handley considered it a ‘want,’ not a ‘need’ and did not support it, the rest of council felt they should not miss an opportunity to get the work done before the 2019 Canada Winter Games begin.

“This… will improve safety, community access, and economic development for our community,” said Veer, who feels the wider sidewalks that will result from this project could get more people downtown for concerts and other future events.

Besides creating a more pedestrian friendly link to the Games Plaza, burying the lines will also revitalize the area, said many city councillors. They felt it would boost economic development and property values while reducing potential impact on the city’s electrical system from ice storms and other extreme weather. Council heard the burial of these lines was initially planned in the 1980s, but rescinded in the 1990s as too costly.

Counc. Ken Johnston was excited by the possibilities this will create on 48th Avenue, saying “This is a great day to be a Red Deerian!”

Council received a pleasant fiscal surprise on Tuesday, learning Red Deer’s contribution to the regional water and sewer line that will also service Lacombe and Blackfalds, was greatly overestimated. A savings of more than $4 million to the capital budget will be achieved, since the city’s contribution shrank to $4 million from a previously anticipated $8.132.

Council also approved the replacement of two ambulances that were damaged in road accidents. Most of the approx. $190,000 cost for each vehicle is covered by insurance, but $55,000 from the first ambulance purchase and $41,000 from the second will have to be obtained from the city’s fleet reserve fund.

Councillor Paul Harris suggested fewer accidents would happen if more city motorists knew to pull over to the right side of the road and stop when they hear a siren, letting the emergency vehicle get by. “It could be a matter of life and death.”

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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