Mayor: ‘Need to have’ budget has an eye on the future

Over the past few months, I have devoted this column to the crime and social issues that are the No. 1 concern of our community, and will return to this focus in next month’s column to further outline the strategies the city has underway to address the safety and social issues our community is faced with.

However, given recent community decisions regarding the 2019 capital budget and what it means for the future of Red Deer, and of course, the financial impact it has on our citizens and businesses, I thought I would note some of the highlights for you in this month’s column.

As noted throughout council deliberations, we continue to navigate a recessed local economy, with some sectors showing signs of the beginnings of recovery.

The 2019 budget is generally a “need to have” budget, with most of the 2019 investment occurring in water and wastewater infrastructure, maintaining existing assets the city is responsible for, with some growth preparation to facilitate development to the north of 11A in the northwest quadrant of the city.

Of particular interest to our citizens is the planning that will be undertaken for the long-awaited expansion of the Dawe Recreation Centre, with the future twinning of the ice surface and addition of a spray park identified in the capital plan.

Given the identified risk of the imminent failure of the downtown Kinex (a facility that is now over 50 years old), the Dawe project is recommended to go forward in the near future to replace the Kinex, as there is little point to spending $7 million to $10 million to put a Band-Aid on the Kinex, given that it is well past its expected facility life.

The second item of substantial community and council discussion is the future aquatics centre project. In response to the many competing challenges, given our continuing fiscal reality, council agreed to the following points to take the next reasonable steps regarding the 50-metre pool, while still responsibly respecting the financial realities of our day:

• Council will determine the scope and location of the proposed aquatic centre by the third quarter of 2019.

• Council approved the detailed design costs for the proposed aquatic centre for 2019, instead of 2023 as proposed.

• The construction schedule of the proposed aquatic centre in the 10-year capital plan will remain in 2025/26/27 as proposed, pending consideration of items one and two above.

Last term, council agreed in principle that the next aquatic infrastructure in Red Deer would need to include a 50-metre pool, and we began a capital savings plan to protect the public from a significant tax spike for pool costs alone when it is eventually constructed.

As noted above, over the coming months, council will be discussing location and scope, with an intention to substantially reduce the current $110-million construction price tag, which makes the aquatics centre financially prohibitive at this point, given the recessed economy and significant provincial grant cutbacks.

I hope this helps to answer some of your questions until next month. As always, council thanks you for the ongoing opportunity to represent you.

We look forward to seeing you all in the near future and hearing about what is important to citizens in our community.

Until next time…

Mayor Tara Veer

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