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Firehall rebuild delayed

Planning for 2015 and beyond got started at Monday's standing committee on finance meeting

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 06:00 am

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It might only be May, but council started making preliminary decisions about next year’s capital budget and the 10-year capital plan on Monday night.

The repair, maintain and replace capital budget, also known as RMR, came under council scrutiny and suggestions, with several related motions debated during their standing committee on finance meeting.

Council addresses the issue of RMR capital projects for the next year in the spring so that staff can start to anticipate work plans and put out tenders, though nothing is for certain until the 2015 budget is passed in December.

Council had the opportunity to submit several motions for debate, and the mayor had given notice on a raft of ones that would have moved various projects from RMR to the category of growth capital project.

“In all of these items, I look at the capital list for growth and I wonder why some RMR and why are some growth?” mayor Nolan Crouse asked, saying his motions were trying to “force us to get into a better discipline” into categorizing whether or not a project is growth or RMR.

The staff reports disagreed with his categorization of several projects as growth that they considered RMR, and Crouse ended up withdrawing several of them, commenting that obviously some council education is needed on the different budget categories.

Other projects debated by council included postponing the Rivercrest lift station rehabilitation, postponing a rebuild of Fire Station No. 1 to accommodate the ladder truck, and setting aside money to re-install the T-Bird airplane somewhere.

Crouse’s motion to postpone the lift station rehabilitation was soundly defeated in a 1-6 vote, with councillors citing environmental concerns among others.

“I have faith that this project wouldn’t be before us if it wasn’t necessary,” said Coun. Tim Osborne. Both he and Coun. Sheena Hughes suggested it’d be tough to face residents and businesses if there was a sewage backup that could have been prevented by the rehabilitation.

Crouse’s attempt to delay the plans to rebuild Fire Station No. 1 was passed in a 4-3 split vote, with Osborne and Couns. Cathy Heron and Gilles Prefontaine in the minority.

Prefontaine pointed out staff said the project would take a few years.

“I don’t believe I’m prepared to push this out any further,” he said. “It takes time to do this, and I think the time is now.”

The majority of council disagreed.

The rebuild is being suggested so the ladder truck can fit into that hall, which is closest to higher residential buildings where the truck is needed.

When Crouse decided to withdraw his motion postponing council chambers upgrades, MacKay brought it back to the floor.

However, council ended up unanimously voting against the postponement so they can explore a more current set of numbers and break out aesthetic changes from ones that are meant to improve safety.

“This business case isn’t ready to fly is the long and short of it,” MacKay said. The business case might return in the fall for council to consider an updated version.

The mayor’s suggestion that $500,000 be funded in 2016 and 2017 to re-install the airplane, which was taken down earlier this spring due to some structural concerns, was met with some debate.

MacKay suggested $500,000 was an unreasonable amount to put aside to re-install the plane.

“We could have our own St. Albert air force for half a million,” MacKay said, noting he’d found a similar, working plane for sale for under $100,000.

MacKay’s suggestion that the amount be lowered to $50,000 was voted down in a 5-2 vote.

However, the motion to put $500,000 aside didn’t go forward. Instead, the committee voted unanimously in favour of having a project charter on the repair of the airplane display brought forward during the fall budget process.

A motion from Hughes to move repairs to Juneau House from the RMR budget to growth was defeated in a 4-3 vote, with Crouse, Heron, Osborne and Prefontaine in the majority.

A version of the 10-year municipal and utility RMR capital plan incorporating the committee’s decisions will be presented at a June council meeting.


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