Red Deer 2012 budget briefs

The City of Red Deer will scrap doing this year’s municipal census in order to save just over $141,000.

Census scrapped this year

The City of Red Deer will scrap doing this year’s municipal census in order to save just over $141,000.

Legislative and Governance Services manager Elaine Vincent said the census is generally cost neutral as the additional dollars gained from grant dollars outweigh the cost to administer. Some of the grant money the City of Red Deer receives is based on per capita granting.

In doing analysis this year, it showed that the anticipated growth rate for the city would need to be over two to three per cent for the census to be cost neutral, Vincent said.

As 2012 is not anticipated to have growth greater than three per cent, this was recommended as a cost savings to city council for consideration in budget debate. At the budget debate, administration was directed to bring this back on an annual basis for council’s consideration so they can consider if the census will proceed on a year by year basis.

Traffic safety position saved

An existing traffic safety position will stay.

The Engineering Department had suggested the position could be eliminated in order to bring some savings. The majority of council voted in favour of keeping the position.

Without it, council was told inquiries to the public will be delayed and safety-related complaints may be unaddressed.

The position involves, among other things, gathering traffic collision data, and long-term collision prevention strategies. The loss could also affect the department’s ability to undertake operational reviews such as addressing 39th Street speed concerns.

Councillor Cindy Jefferies said one of the biggest dangers that citizens face is traffic safety. Safety is paramount in people’s minds, so this position would be important to keep, added Councillor Dianne Wyntjes.

Councillors Buck Buchanan and Chris Stephan were opposed.

Fluoride expense remains

Council did not support a projected cost savings of $75,000 to eliminate fluoride in the water supply.

Councillor Paul Harris said it’s only a matter of time before Red Deer takes out the fluoride because it’s happening in cities around the planet.

The city is undergoing a review involving the public, so this budgetary item was deemed premature.

Street sweeping status quo

Downtown street sweeping will continue at the same level as last year.

Public Works had suggested reducing street sweeping by one, so there would only be three in a year versus four.

But it was felt among council and city manager Craig Curtis that it’s important to maintain the street appearance.

The additional street sweeping added a few years ago has been welcomed too by the Downtown Business Association and downtown businesses.

CAEP funding preserved

Land and Economic Development had suggested eliminating funding to Central Alberta Economic Partnership, or just over $27,000. But the city has a contract with this regional member organization.

The City of Red Deer received a letter late in the day on Monday from CAEP about the increase in the annual membership fee, which was approved for just over $9,000.

Harris, who sits as the city’s representative on CAEP, had told council to be expecting the increase only minutes earlier.

Pool opening times changed

Swimmers will be sleeping in a little later since opening hours are changing at the Recreation Centre.

Council approved moving the opening time to 6 a.m. from 5:30 a.m. in order to realize savings of $4,800.

Acting Community Services director Greg Scott said the change primarily affects about 10 or fewer lane swimmers.

Rec centre stat hours cut

Red Deer recreational centres will see reduced hours during statutory holidays. This will save the city just over $20,600.

The Collicutt Centre and G.H. Dawe Centre would see hours reduced from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on stat holidays, with the exception of Remembrance Day, when hours would be 1 to 7 p.m.

The Recreation Centre would see service level reductions to Canada Day, Civic Holiday and Labour Day.

Councillors Frank Wong, Chris Stephan and Dianne Wyntjes were opposed to the reduction on stat holidays. “This is what I would consider family time,” said Stephan, adding similar changes were made last year as well. “I don’t see this being in the community’s interests.”

Scott said this change would cut back on staffing costs.

Park cleanup cash remains

Garbage collection crew at parks will continue as in the past.

Recreation, Parks and Culture suggested it could save $29,000 in reducing the garbage collection crew in half.

But council believed litter maintenance was important. Councillor Lynne Mulder said, “I think we want our parks to look nice.” Jefferies said this crew also serves as another pair of eyes to see if anything is awry in the parks.

“If we don’t care, we send a message to our park users,” said Jefferies.

Mowing changes to save funds

Recreation, Parks and Culture will reduce rough cut mowing by 50 per cent to save $20,000.

Scott said this practice applies to ditch areas and other borders, not generally in highly visible park areas.

This reduction will result in the city doing one or two mows.

Jefferies said she can support this for one year, but she’d like parks staff to keep an eye on thistles, which draw concerns from residents.

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