Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer reveals the recommended 2020 Capital Budget on Friday. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s proposed aquatic centre could be sidelined for the forseeable future

New economic realities must be faced, says Mayor Tara Veer

How can Red Deer call itself a sports capital if swimmers’ needs are constantly deferred, questions a supporter of the long-sought aquatic centre.

Lynne Mulder, a former city councillor and proponent of the pool project, says “disappointed is an understatement” of how she feels about a city proposal to push the competition-sized pool project off its 10-year capital projects list.

“They are constantly looking for reasons that it can’t be built, instead of coming up with a plan of how it can be built,” adds Mulder.

While she understands the fiscal limitations caused by Alberta’s slow economy, Mulder questions why another hockey rink is in the plans for the G.H. Dawe Centre when the city already has plenty of rinks available locally and in the region?

The new rink would replace the aging Kinex arena — but how about where swimmers will train once the aging Michener Centre pool is shut down, Mulder wonders.

By spending little chunks of money, the city will have no funds left to aside for the large pool project, she adds. Meanwhile, a second study was undertaken to determine the scope of the aquatic project.

As the results will have no value in 10-plus years, Mulder says the study will be a waste of money.

On Friday, the city’s 2020 capital plan was revealed, showing that the new aquatic centre and the Northlands Drive bridge and connector route were bumped out of Red Deer’s proposed 10-year capital plan, due to a slow economy and stagnant city growth.

While funding is proposed for the G.H. Dawe Centre rink twinning to replace the aging Kinex Arena, money for an additional police station for north Red Deer was also pushed ahead by more than a decade, despite high crime in the community.

Mayor Tara Veer says the “bricks and mortar” station is no longer needed since the city is no longer growing much in any direction.

The city’s Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci confirms Red Deer has only seen about 1 per cent growth over the last two to three years. At this rate, the Northlands Drive connector bridge won’t be needed until 2032.

Here are some of the recommended items in the 2020 budget

He and other city administrators remain concerned about what the provincial budget will bring on Oct. 24, since Alberta has been locked in a recession, with the premier warning that cuts are coming.

Veer says she understands that some people will be disappointed with the sidelining of long-sought items, such as the multi-use aquatic centre with a competion-sized pool.

But she feels the city must be fiscally responsible and take prudent action, based on the state of the local and provincial economies and dwindling city revenues.

(See sidebar about the smaller projects planned).

Red Deer City Council

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Aquatic centre supporters want the project to go ahead within in a few years. From left are Roy van der Sluis, Brian Gallaway, Darcy Waddle and Lynne Mulder. (Advocate file photo).

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