St. Albert has been able to manage what’s on its plate in 2016 in part because some of it has been saved for leftovers.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said some of the biggest challenges of the year have been the “tough conversations” around the city’s capital plan, and in particular bigger facilities that residents are asking for.
He cited council’s approval of Project 9, a trunk sewer line set for construction this year, and a new branch library, slated for construction in 2018, as examples of this progress.
But he was quick to point out that a new arena ice surface and a new or expanded aquatics facility, which are together valued at close to $40 million, are unanswered questions that council will have to address in 2017.
“In the next few months, this isn’t going to go away,” Crouse said. “The question of an arena isn’t going to go away, and the question of an aquatics facility isn’t going to go away.”
Despite the obvious challenge of funding the city’s long-term capital wish list – for which the city would have to borrow as much as $310 million over 10 years to fund in its current state – he said the city has made some progress this year in establishing some of the big-picture policy direction.
“In 2015 we were doing a lot more small tactical things, and I felt that 2016 was a lot more higher-level,” he said, adding this may set the stage for the success of the next council, which will be elected in October 2017.
Crouse said there have been some major successes in the city outside the council chambers in St. Albert Place, as well. Some of those successes are evident in the city’s north end as commercial development continues at a strong pace despite the province’s current economic troubles, but projects like Botanica at the old Hole’s site and the Amacon development at the Grandin mall are also good signs.
“Those developments have not slowed down, so our development industry in St. Albert has marched along pretty well,” he said. “Single-family housing is down, but I feel very good about where the current status is of development.”
Much of the benefit will be felt in coming years. For example, with the new Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission in the Campbell Business Park expected to be finished in 2018, there will be a significant benefit to St. Albert.
“That’s a huge piece of development that’s going to bring some more employment to our community as well,” Crouse said.
He said there’s also a real feather in the city’s cap when it comes to safety – including corporate safety, traffic safety and overall crime – fitting in with the city’s goal of being one of the safest communities in the country.
“If you look at the long term trend of safety and traffic safety, it’s absolutely right where one would hope,” he said. “We’re continually improving in every category of safety.”
Crouse said one of the big highlights of the coming year is going to be the work council members are doing with their counterparts in Sturgeon County through the Inter-municipal Affairs Committee to establish mutually acceptable boundary adjustments.
“We’ve been fairly cryptic and non specific with respect to boundary work,” he said. “I think we’re going to be more specific on that.”
Work has been ongoing for several years, and he said he expects a tentative proposal to come at the meeting Feb. 8, 2017.