More boots on the ground may soon be patrolling Red Deer streets.
Director of Community Services Sarah Cockerill asked council to foot the $559,650 bill to cover six new police officers and three municipal support staff on Thursday.
Another $132,150 in one-time funding was requested to cover the provincial shortfall in grant funding. The province funds three police officers on an annual basis but it has not kept pace with increased policing costs.
Currently there are 147 approved RCMP positions at the Red Deer detachment.
“One of the realities today is that we are a growing community that is experiencing significant demand on our policing resources,” said Cockerill.
The recommended number of new officers comes is based on the city’s policing plan.
The officers and support could start as in the middle of 2015 to account for hiring and approvals.
Coun. Buck Buchanan, a former police officer, wanted to ensure that the officers were used on the front line as opposed to working in administrative roles.
Supt. Scott Tod told council that the officers are needed on the streets and that’s where they are going.
The city is responsible for 90 per cent of the policing costs.
A few councillors hinted at the importance of lobbying the province for long overdo and well-deserved financial support on the policing side.
The policing budget takes up about $32.1 million of the proposed $329-million operating budget.
Coun. Ken Johnston said municipalities are underfunded from the province particularly on the policing front. He mentioned the City of Edmonton’s lobbying efforts.
“I think there’s opportunity for us to advocate very aggressively,” he said. “We need policing and I support the increases. I think the province should come to the table and start paying its fair share.”
The entire division covers policing, transit, social planning and recreation, parks and culture departments.
Council asked about the $900,000 fine revenue shortfall from photo radar and red light cameras tickets.
Cockerill said the city expected the revenue stream to return to 2008 levels but it has not gone in that direction. The fine revenue was anticipated to increase with the boost in enforcement vehicles.
Cockerill said the revenue was impacted by factors such as weather, driver compliance or a driver’s ability to pay. Cockerill said there’s actually a net savings of $100,000 with the fine revenue reduction and a five per cent vacancy factor.
Community Services Highlights:
lArts groups in the city may be getting a boost in city grants.
The city provides funding for not-for-profit arts groups for operations, capacity building, special events and public art.
Community Services Director Sarah Cockerill said the current culture fee for service funding is not meeting the demands of cultural groups. She said the rates have been frozen for many years.
A 10 per cent increase to the current fee for service program is proposed. The amount would be roughly $23,865 in 2015 and potentially another $26,251 in 2016. This may also pave the way for three-year funding agreements as opposed to the current one-year agreements.
Cockerill said there has been an increase in demand for the grants.
l The Central Alberta 211 service may be going live. A $67,500 request from United Way will bring the service to the phone lines. Currently it is only available online. The funding will allow for free 24/7 multi-lingual access to the detailed information. The city hopes that the province will “come to the table and fund the service across Alberta”.
lAdmission rates may be on the rise at facilities throughout the city. Community Services recommends a three per cent increase on average for facility rentals and adult admission.
The proposal is to increase entry to the G.H. Dawe, Michener and Recreation Centres by $.25 and entry to the Collicutt Centre will go up by $.50 starting on April 1. Rental increases would go up by three percent on Sept. 1.
lAction Bus Service may be expanded to include weekend and evening shifts ($49,318). In total this would provide 300 extra specialized door-to-door service hours.
lOn the crime prevention side, the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre is requesting $170,500 for operating costs. Administration is recommending $143,000 but not the late request of an additional $27,500. In the future, funding will be channelled through a new safety committee.
lBusinesses and individuals may soon be on the hook for running criminal record checks. The new fees proposed for a full check is $45 for businesses and $5 for volunteers and others. The volunteer criminal record checks could be subsidized by 91 per cent.