Red Deer’s capital budget debate enters third day

Red Deer council debates pool, pedestrian bridges and more on second day

The fate of Red Deer’s ”beloved” pedestrian bridge was called into question when Red Deer council discussed a $9 million repair and upgrade project.

A $5.4 million allotment for fixing a major structural issue was slated to be discussed as part of the 2019 capital budget. A previous $3.7 million was set aside for stripping off lead paint and repainting the bridge in 2016’s capital budget.

But Coun. Lawrence Lee suggested this item be suspended from next year’s plan until a full community review and consultation takes place. In light of tight economic times, he suggested the public should have more say over whether this much money is spent on repairing the bridge, including a deteriorating abutment.

City manager Craig Curtis responded that doing the repairs is cheaper than building a new bridge — and they are needed for the structure‘s survival. Whenever there was previous talk of demolishing the old CP Rail bridge, he noted “there was a community outcry.”

The bridge is a municipal heritage structure that serves as a pedestrian link between North and South Red Deer and to park trails. Curtis said a structural assessment done two years ago found the north abutment was deteriorating. As a matter of safety, he did not recommend waiting much longer to undertake the extensive repairs required.

After Coun. Tanya Handley questioned whether the other bridge abutment would soon need replacing as well, council decided to ask administration to bring a full accounting of the state of the bridge to the 2019 capital budget meeting. Lee and other councillors resolved to keep the repair costs as an item in next year’s capital budget, which can be discussed in context of having more information about the bridge’s repair needs.

Another pedestrian bridge also came up in discussion. A proposal to put $17-million towards building a new walking bridge that connects Riverlands to Bower Ponds was supposed to be discussed in 2023. The majority of council decided it wasn’t a priority at a time when the economy is recovering from a recession. They opted to move the discussion to 2028 or beyond.

The budget talks continue Friday in council chambers.

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