Residents in St. Albert have rejected further planning of a branch library and sixth ice sheet, while simultaneously issuing their approval for additional aquatic space.
Unofficial results from the city showed an overwhelming amount of people who cast ballots did so against the branch library, with 13,346 – representing 61.7 per cent of the vote – voting no. The yes vote included 7,802 votes, or 36.1 per cent.
Residents narrowly voted down further planning on a sixth sheet of ice for Servus Place as well, with 10,850 votes or 50.2 per cent against the project and 9,982 votes or 46.1 per cent in favour.
A third ballot question for further planning of additional aquatic space for Servus Place received majority approval, with 12,050 votes in favour, representing 55.7 per cent of ballots cast. Ballots cast against the project numbered 8,922, or 41.2 per cent of the vote.
The results of the plebiscite are non-binding.
All three questions have been the source of much debate by candidates as well as the outgoing council, although the topic of the branch library overshadowed the other two projects during the election.
Mayor-elect Cathy Heron said that she is not sure what is next for the three capital projects but does not want to wait another four years to address the lack of facilities.
“It sounds like the public wants the pool so I think that might be a priority but that does not mean that there is not a need for more ice or a need for more library space,” Heron said.
She said that she wants to address the lack of facilities “sooner rather than later” and wants to talk to the newly elected council to look at some “outside the box ideas” to meet the needs of the community.
Heron suggested exploring alternate and non-traditional ideas to fund the projects, such as the Active Communities Alberta proposal, but wants to make sure to discuss everything with her new council mates.
Outgoing mayor Nolan Crouse said the results came as a bit of a surprise.
“I might have guessed the ice surface might have come ahead of aquatics,” he said.
“I’m happy there’s clarity in the three numbers. I think there’s a clarity in the library number and there’s a clarity in the aquatics number – I suppose the ice facility can go either way because it’s so close.”
He said the incoming council should take the vote as a message to get moving on additional aquatic space.
The results also gave pause for reflection from the standpoint of the outgoing council. Crouse pointed to motions he made during the city’s budget sessions to fund all three projects, where aquatic space received the least support.
“The library passed seven to nothing, the ice facility failed three to four and aquatics failed one to six,” he explained.
“What I’m interested in is … where were we that we didn’t know this?”