Cycling elite to roll through Red Deer again

Some of the best in the cycling world will once again thrill spectators as they race down Ross Street as part of the Tour of Alberta on Sept. 4.

Some of the best in the cycling world will once again thrill spectators as they race down Ross Street as part of the Tour of Alberta on Sept. 4.

Red Deer city council agreed to spend $154,000 ($100,000 in cash and $54,000 in kind city services) to help host the second finishing stage of the professional cycling race on Monday.

Most councillors reasoned the event would once again raise Red Deer’s profile on the national and international stage. They said the event aligns with the city’s current economic development plan and positioned the city well to further its goals.

In the 8-1 decision, Coun. Tanya Handley voted against the expenditure citing concerns of the city’s large investment in the 2019 Canada Winter Games bid and turning down residents for local festival money.

“I personally feel we put a lot of eggs in that basket and we are spreading ourselves quite thin,” said Handley.

Handley said she would rather see professional cycling sponsors foot the bill instead of the city where the cyclists will ride into and leave.

“We’ve already heard of local festivals that can’t go on because they do not have enough funding,” said Handley. “We have had to say ‘no’ and ‘not yet’. These are the people that live here; the people that stay here. And we’re talking about professionally paid cyclists that breeze in and breeze out.”

Coun. Lawrence Lee said he would not be comfortable supporting something that would not have a return on investment. Lee said there are many benefits for the event including inspiring young Red Deerians.

“This is an event that doesn’t cost our citizens to attend,” said Lee. “There is absolutely no fee to attend this event. That has to be weighed and measured. At the end of the day, I think the city benefits. Not only the strategic process from holding the event but economically.”

Coun. Ken Johnston said Red Deer is growing, its reputation is growing and this event aligns with the city’s economic charter.

A few councillors brought up the lateness of the request and suggested the need for a balanced and fair process to manage the requests from the community.

“It makes it very awkward and challenging as a councillor to say ‘yes’ to one and say ‘no’ others,” said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes. “I think it is something that I think we as a council will have to wrestle with, with future requests.”

The second stage will have riders start in Innisfail and travel west to Sylvan Lake, then east through the county and enter Red Deer from the east. The tour begins in Calgary with a prologue on Sept. 2 and wraps up in Edmonton on Sept. 7.

In a presentation by local organizing chairman George Berry council heard the tally for the Central Alberta stage is $285,000 which includes the starting and finishing rights fees and the local festival expenses.

Berry told council the committee is close to firming up financial commitments from the County of Red Deer ($50,000) and Sylvan Lake ($30,000). Innisfail has already agreed to pay $20,000.

Berry said they are banking on $85,000 in corporate donations to foot the remainder of the bill.

Councillors asked about the economic impact on the city. The tour estimated it was upwards of $650,000 but without a local impact study, the estimated amount could not be verified.

Berry said this year a study will be conducted in Red Deer following the event.

Red Deer was one of three cities that were asked to host again directly after the inaugural event. Edmonton and Calgary were the other two.

Berry acknowledged the complaints from residents, particularly in Deer Park and Clearview, who did not know about the event.

Berry said they want to make sure that every single person in Red Deer knows about the race and the festival. Berry said this year they have a retired RCMP officer who is on the committee who will help with the emergency preparedness plan. They will also step up its communication strategy.

“We will let people know long enough ahead that there is no way that anybody in 100,000 people in Red Deer can say they don’t know this race is coming,” said Berry.

The route in Red Deer will be the same as in 2013.

In other council news:

lCity manager Craig Curtis and the nine-person council will receive a two per cent wage hike this year. Council approved the increases on Monday.

This year the Alberta wage rate is 4.56 per cent but council opted to be more conservative in light of the current economic climate and because the Alberta wage increase is higher than other staff salary settlements.

Curtis will make $242,472, up from his $237,718 salary in 2013. Mayor Tara Veer will now make $101,932 compared to $99,934 in 2013.

In 2013, councillors took home $54,964 but now will now earn $56,063 with the two per cent raise.

In November 2013, council approved a new compensation policy that tied council’s annual salary adjustments to the change in the average Albertan’s wage rate and to allow more flexibility through council direction.

Increases for the mayor and council in the past were included in exempt city staff adjustments. This year’s wage hike is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014.

lRed Deer Airport CEO RJ Steenstra told council that the airport is taking off in 2014 after a solid 2013. The airport’s master plan is expected to be completed later this year. A public house on the plans will be held on June 10 at the Sheraton Hotel. Residents are invited to learn about the future of the airport and provide input. Details about the time will be sorted out in the coming weeks.

lCity council endorsed the Community Housing Advisory Board’s allocation of $1,991,223 to the Red Deer Native Friendship Society for its affordable housing project. The grant will be used to build 16 affordable housing units. The society must contribute at least 30 per cent to the housing units. Recently the society filed a development permit to build the housing project at 4615 Riverside Drive, east of the Lion’s Campground. The society has plans to build an integrated housing and cultural centre called the Asooahum Centre on the 3.5 acres of canoe-shaped land. The funds cannot be used for the cultural centre.

lCouncil endorsed the EveryOne’s Home: Red Deer’s Five Year Plan to End Homelessness 2014 to 2018 as a community planning document. The plan, the second of two five-year plans, is necessary in order for the city to secure provincial grants.

Kristine Bugayong, CEO of the Red Deer and District Community Foundation, told council Red Deer has a long standing stance in tackling the issue of homelessness.

Buyagong said successes in the first five years included We Care, a social marketing plan to reduce stigma and discrimination against vulnerable members in the community, and releasing annual reports on programs and services available to the community.

“From our perspective ending homelessness means that the spectrum of services throughout our community is available to the individuals and families that need it,” she said. “So we will never eradicate shelter services because there will always be someone out there who needs that type of service. That’s not what we are saying … I believe we can as long as those services are in place for people who might enter homelessness. Then I think that’s our goal.”

City manager Craig Curtis told council that the province has to be at the table in order for the city to implement any part of the plan.

As part of its resolution, council will ask the province to take an active role in coordinating the development of a governance model for the housing component of the homeless strategy in Red Deer.