City capital spending motions begin

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Councillor starts filing motions on what to fund, what to unfund

One city councillor has started making motions to remove funding from projects in the proposed capital budget.

With budget deliberations around the corner, council members are mulling over what capital projects they might take off the funded list in the draft budget, and what unfunded projects they might suggest council approve for 2019.

Last Monday, council members got their first look at the draft city budget that showed a proposed $27 million worth of projects to be funded in 2019.

Coun. Sheena Hughes said she is considering making a motion for $100,000 to fund power stretchers for fire services to help lift patients into ambulances without injury or strain.

“I was surprised it wasn’t in the funded list, quite frankly,” Hughes said, adding these stretchers would be an investment. “Most other organizations have them.”

Hughes said the power stretchers would help mitigate injuries related to manually lifting stretchers and workers needing to take leave as a result of injuries. Power stretchers were rolled out across the province earlier this year, but because St. Albert has contracted fire services, the city was not included in the funding.

“Obviously if we have staff that are injured now we have overtime, we have decreased staffing and more stress for the staff that aren’t injured,” she said.

Hughes said the new stretchers would allow the patient to be transferred without a lot of bumps and jarring.

Another fire services project on Hughes’ radar, which she is considering making a motion to fund, is the Computer Aided Dispatch software, which would increase response times, with a price tag of $42,000.

The councillor, who is the only one who has made any funding motions so far, also wants council to consider removing funding from several proposed projects.

Hughes wants council to discuss removing $20,000 in funding for an external consultant to facilitate a strategic planning retreat as well as scrapping a $10,000 video montage for the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts 10th Anniversary event.

“We put $20,000 into developing the council strategic plan last year with the understanding that it would be a document that would basically cover the full council term and it would be a one-time investment to accomplish this goal,” Hughes said.

She added she was surprised to see it come forward as a repeating investment each year.

Coun. Natalie Joly said she supports both of Hughes’ motions to remove funding for the two projects.

Both of the councillors said they will be working hard to keep the proposed tax increase as low as possible.

“I think we all have an appetite to keep it as low as possible but it’s a matter of balancing and making sure we are making decisions that are beneficial for the community and not just for people who live here in 2019 but going forward,” Joly said.

As for unfunded projects, there are 63 items in total sitting on that list, including six proposed recreation facilities.

The list also includes $4.6 million for a north park and ride transit centre, $2.5 million for transit growth buses, just under $3 million for the third phase of the Founders’ Walk and $1.2 million for the third phase of Heritage Park, which would be a French-Canadian farm.

Millennium Park is also not slated to receive funding this year, which was disappointing to Mayor Cathy Heron, who said the city already spent a lot of money on the project. In the draft budget, the park – which is estimated to cost around $14.4 million – is unfunded and wouldn’t see funding until 2023 and get a final injection of funding in 2025.

Right now, there is no funding earmarked for a proposed storefront library with a price tag of $517,000 for 2019 for a 3,000-square-foot facility in the north end of St. Albert.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.