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Budget winners and losers

Museum, community support centre sidelined, statutory holiday transit service, 50+ club moving forward

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 14, 2013 06:00 am

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Several projects and proposed positions were given the green or red light during the municipal budget debate this week.

Though the budget has not been formally approved by council, council’s committee of the whole concluded its deliberation sessions on Thursday night.

While not every project or job proposed in the budget was given extra scrutiny by council, several suggested plans did find themselves the subject of council member motions during budget deliberations on Tuesday and Thursday.

A low flush toilet rebate program, grants to develop basement suites, park bleachers, a business park Internet study and plans to get started on the expansion of the museum all found themselves on the chopping block.

“I think this is a kill shot and I’m not prepared to go there,” said Mayor Nolan Crouse, speaking in opposition to a motion to unfund the museum expansion.

“The people in St. Albert are looking for value for their dollar and the museum does not interest them,” said Coun. Sheena Hughes.

The motion to unfund the museum expansion was passed by a 4-3 vote.

The planned community support centre project also found itself on the “unfunded” list.

“At this point I just don’t see that compelling reason in the community to fund this at this point,” said Crouse.

A unanimous vote moved the community support centre into the unfunded column.

The Sturgeon River Master Plan was unfunded and a re-do of the municipal development plan was delayed until 2015.

Positions like a community technology analyst and an electronic media and communication program were axed.

A motion from Hughes removed $50,000 from the economic development department’s budget, with the vote 4-3 in favour of the decrease.

Crouse had suggested allocating $100,00 in anticipation of funds needed to replace the youth centre programming and space after the centre’s closure earlier this year. The rest of council did not agree and the motion was not passed.

It wasn’t all bad news, however. Several community groups received grants, the 50+ club expansion and renovation looks to be funded, BLESS is getting money for extra sections of a walkway project in Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park meant to address flooding, turf mowing standards were addressed and more.

Some of the new positions going forward are an enhanced building monitoring and customer service spot at Servus Place, a part-time human resources position for attraction and retention and a director of finance and utilities. Council also voted to add funds for an extra RCMP officer.

Transit service on 10 statutory holidays will be going forward despite two motions attempting to scrap or limit the service addition.

“The world we live in today, we’re a 365 day community,” said Coun. Gilles Prefontaine.

Prefontaine also brought forward a proposal to allocate $250,000 to support and accelerate the city’s continuous improvement service level review project, with the premise of retaining contract work to help benchmark the city’s service levels. The motion was passed 5-2, with the city manager to report back with terms of reference for the project by the end of June 2014.

The St. Anne Street realignment looks to be going forward, though Coun. Cam MacKay argued to delay it a year to reconsider some factors. His suggested postponement was defeated.

Approval of the budget is anticipated to occur during the Dec. 16 council meeting.


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