Mayor Ken Johnston said he told the provincial government Red Deer taxpayers could not contribute towards the cost of building a permanent shelter, in case of a financial shortfall.
“We all know that buying power isn’t what it was two years ago… but I’ve been clear that we won’t be contributing to the capital dollars for the project, ” added Johnston on Tuesday.
The permanent shelter is a provincial government project, and city officials have not yet been given a budgetary breakdown of shelter costs.
But Johnston acknowledged that council members have been discussing concerns that the $7 million first announced for the shelter by the provincial government in 2017 may not be enough, given rising materials costs and inflation.
Coun. Lawrence Lee told the Advocate on Monday the shelter’s budget will likely only cover about half of the project’s costs. He hoped a new federal government program that’s being designed to provide some supportive housing funds to municipalities could cover any shortfall that could result.
Johnston said Lee isn’t wrong to consider costing overruns, given inflation, but the mayor remains optimistic that the province will “make it work,” and deliver a permanent shelter with wrap-around services on budget.
Council’s main concern, at this point, is settling on a location for the permanent shelter, he added.
While building on vacant, city-owned land could be a lower-cost option, depending on whether the land is serviced, rather having to pay for a private lot, the mayor stressed that financial considerations are secondary to what’s best for the community.
“We have to make a careful, practical decision,” said Johnston, adding that the site that works best for Red Deer might not be the most cost-effective one.
Before the city’s online public survey on shelter considerations wraps up this on Friday at 4:30 p.m., there will be three in-person group sessions at Westerner Park on Wednesday and Thursday (visit reddeer.ca to register).
City council intends to study the data that’s gathered and make a decision on the shelter’s location on July 19 and 20.