File photo by ADVOCATE staff Red Deer City Manager Allan Seabrooke says all council discussions of non-essential city business will be postponed.

Only ‘essential’ city business to be discussed by Red Deer city council, other projects delayed

Many decisions on municipal projects to be postponed

All non-essential business was swept off Red Deer city council’s agenda Monday as virus-transmission-reducing protocols were enacted at city hall.

City manager Allan Seabrooke said city council is following new rules that curtail public gatherings, including larger in-house meetings of city staff and administrators.

In light of precautionary advice from health experts on reducing the spread of COVID-19, only four Red Deer city councillors and three administrators were present to meet briefly Monday afternoon.

The remaining councillors were teleconferencing to provide their input from home.

Seabrooke said at least two of them — councillors Buck Buchanan and Dianne Wyntjes — are self-isolating after returning from overseas travel.

Mayor Tara Veer appeared in council chambers after an updating phone call from Premier Jason Kenney and after council approved two budgetary items that were necessary for the city to function.

Other items that were supposed to be discussed by council, but would have necessitated in some cases public hearings, were postponed — including an expansion of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, a verbal update on the Red Deer Regional Airport, and a request for financial support from the organizers of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup hockey tournament.

Seabrooke later acknowledged many projects hanging on a city council decision will be unavoidably delayed — especially those involving more public meetings or consultations.

Decisions, such as whether the Molly Banister Drive extension will be kept in city planning documents as a future road expansion, will be pushed back by weeks or months.

Other matters — such as the overhaul of the city’s transit system — are expected to happen on schedule if public consultations have already wrapped up, said Seabrooke.

The city manager noted there’s no definitive time frame determined yet for when novel coronavirus precautions will be lifted. City officials must hear from health experts about when the threat is on the decline.

While some city staffers will be working from home as needed in the coming weeks, it will be “business as usual” for all essential city services, added Seabrooke, with municipal workers available to respond to water main or electrical problems as they arise.

He said the city has received some flack on social media about the decision to close local public meeting places such as recreation centres and the library. But he added the municipality must do its part to slow the spread of the virus by following standards and protocols set by health experts.

The province has announced some financial relief would be provided for businesses hard hit by the closures, and the city will make this information available when it is received, said Seabrooke.

He recommends citizens with questions and concerns contact the municipal call centre between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at 403-342-8111.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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