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Council approves $50.6M repair and maintenance budget for 2025

RMR money covers 33 projects from wastewater infrastructure to roadway improvements

On June 4, St. Albert city council approved next year's repair, maintain, and replacement (RMR) budget, which totals $50.6 million and covers 33 projects.

READ MORE: City proposes $50.6M for 2025 repair, maintenance projects

Every spring council is presented with an RMR budget — which covers spending to maintain existing city infrastructure and equipment — ahead of the upcoming year's overall budget to determine how much money the city can spend on non-maintenance related projects, which are generally referred to as growth projects.

Because the RMR program is limited to projects that maintain city-owned infrastructure, administration assumes a 1.5 per cent property tax increase when preparing each annual budget for council's consideration as the cost of maintaining municipal infrastructure continues to increase year-over-year as the community grows, and more infrastructure and equipment requires maintenance.

Of the 33 projects included in the 2025 RMR budget, 25 are capital projects while the remaining eight are utility (wastewater, stormwater, tap water, and solid waste) projects.

In an interview, Coun. Wes Brodhead said he expects the RMR budget's overall cost may come as a surprise to some residents, but the price tag is “the reality” of the city having a rigorous plan in place to ensure city-owned infrastructure doesn't fail and cost more in the long run.

“If you don't plan and if you don't have a systematic way of addressing the needs of your community, you'll end up doing this sort of patchwork work on things and you're always working with the urgent, but if you have a long-range plan and ... you've got specific dollars set aside to do it, then the community is well-run,” Brodhead said.

“That's what I like about our RMR process, and that's why I've supported the 1.5 [per cent guaranteed property tax increase every year] for RMR for all this time, because you have to fund your RMR program appropriately.”

As the Gazette reported last month, the projects covered under next year's RMR budget range from the purchase of some new gym equipment for the Servus Place fitness centre to a substantial renewal of one of the city's 15 wastewater lift stations.

New fitness equipment isn't the only thing the city will upgrade at Servus Place next year.  A project report written by recreation and parks director Daniele Podlubny says just over $1 million will be spent on St. Albert's main recreation facility. Other upgrades include the purchase of a new scoreboard for Performance Arena, a new turf field for the south fieldhouse, refurbished dressing rooms in Troy Murray Arena, and more.

Road-related capital projects total slightly more than $9 million, and range from roadway improvements and repaving, parking lot repaving, and sidewalk maintenance.

Dean Schick, the city's transportation manager, wrote in a report to council that one roadway improvement project the city is planning for next year is repaving almost the entirety of Boudreau Road, except between Sturgeon Road and Bellerose Drive, as well as south of Campbell Road.

The city will also spend about $600,000 next year to repair the Children's Bridge downtown. Planned repairs include installing lighting and new handrails, as well as a full replacement of the bridge's walking surface.

When it comes to utility projects next year, one of the most substantial endeavours will be a $2.85 million renewal of the Twilight Lift Station on Sturgeon Road, which requires “immediate and emergent upgrades,” according to the project charter.

Only one RMR budget adjustment was put forward by a member of council and debated on Tuesday, although the motion failed with only Coun. Mike Killick in favour. The proposed adjustment, put forward Killick, was to have the section of St. Vital Avenue between Madonna Drive and Muir Drive repaved next summer in time for the Fountain Tire Soap Box Derby in June 2025.

According to another report written by Schick, this section of St. Vital Avenue isn't scheduled to be repaved until 2029, and Killick's motion clashed with the city's RMR planning framework.

“The requested specific scope of work for the road segment also suggests a portion of reduced level of work compared to typical programming practice,” Schick wrote, adding it's the city's usual practice when repaving a road to also repair adjacent curbs, storm drains, and sidewalks, not just the roadway as Killick's motion requested.

“Performing partial scope of work presents possible risk of investment, as drainage and impact from other failing adjacent infrastructure can minimize the life expected from the improvement,” Schick wrote.

During debate, Killick argued this section of St. Vital Avenue needs to be repaved for the safety and enjoyment of the youth who participate in the annual Soap Box Derby, who race down that specific section of the road.

“The way I look at it, it's dollars to improve a section of road that supports a great community event and makes it safer for everybody,” Killick said. “If people have gone down that hill in a soapbox derby, you know how rough and bumpy it is.”

“The surface is really getting pretty beat up and it is becoming a safety issue as carts jiggle around — thank goodness we haven't had an accident, but it is a safety issue.”

Coun. Natalie Joly, speaking against Killick's motion, said repaving this section of St. Vital Avenue ahead of schedule, and in advance of higher-priority projects, created risk.

“If we do this, we're saying that we're not fussed about the risks introduced by delaying higher-priority projects,” Joly said. 

“Skipping best practices is not something I'm comfortable with as a governor of a community with over a billion dollars in capital assets.”

Council heard during the meeting that St. Vital Avenue was last repaved around 2011 or 2012, and repaving that section of the road next year would cost roughly $100,000, or $150,000 at least if the city were also to repair the adjacent curbs, sidewalks, and storm drains, as would usually happen when any roadway is repaved.

The 2025 RMR budget was approved unanimously.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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