St. Albert city council will be voting on a host of items during this week's council meeting, including a proposed salary increase; next year's repair, maintain, and replace budget; and more.
All members of council, as well as Mayor Cathy Heron, have previously verbally supported an approximately $12,000 salary increase for councillors, as was recommended by a citizen-based committee last April, however, on June 6, council will need to decide when the salary increase should be implemented.
In April, when council was given their first opportunity to discuss recommendations put forward by the remuneration review committee after a seven-month study, council had a split vote when it came to when a seat on council should be designated a full-time position and when council's base salary of $58,587 should be increased to $70,000. The mayor, with a base salary of $149,675, will not receive the salary increase.
Coun. Shelley Biermanski, Coun. Wes Brodhead, Coun. Sheena Hughes, and Coun. Natalie Joly all voted against the remuneration review committee's recommendation to implement the salary increase and full-time designation following the next municipal election in the fall of 2025. However, during the same April meeting, Joly, Coun. Mike Killick, Coun. Ken MacKay, and Mayor Heron voted against Hughes' idea to implement the two recommendations this summer.
Due to Joly voting against both implementation dates, both recommendations technically failed, however Joly has since put forward motions to implement the recommendations after the next election, and allow councillors to earn up to $12,000 a year in per diems in the meantime.
Joly's motions will be debated on June 6, and the Gazette will have an article dedicated to council's decision in the Thursday, June 8 edition of the newspaper.
2024 RMR budget
On June 6 city council will also be looking to give formal approval to next year's repair, maintain, and replace (RMR) budget, a draft version of which was presented to council last month.
This year's RMR budget, which is finalized ahead of the city's overall budget to better determine how much funding can be put towards growth and other capital projects, will likely be approved almost exactly as administration has presented it, as only one postponed motion has been put forward by council.
The postponed motion, put forward by Coun. Hughes, seeks to add $225,000 to the roughly $53.3 million budget to fully fund the city's multi-use trail maintenance program for next year.
In the draft 2024 RMR budget put forward by city administration last month, the multi-use trail program was reduced by $225,000 in order to put that funding towards the city's sidewalk maintenance program, which the city's transportation manager says is experiencing a greater need compared to the trail program.
The Gazette will have an article dedicated to council's likely approval of the 2024 RMR budget in the Thursday, June 8 edition of the newspaper.
Larry Olexiuk Field turf replacement
City administration is asking council to approve spending $112,700 more than budgeted on the planned turf replacement at Larry Olexiuk Field in Riel Park.
The increase, if approved, will bump the project's overall budget to just over $1 million, according to a report included in the June 6 council meeting agenda.
The budget increase is necessary, administration's report states, because after the city issued a request for proposals from qualified contractors, the lowest but still compliant bid the city received for the project was $112,700 more than the project's budget of $925,200.
The turf replacement was approved as part of the 2023 city budget after multiple quality assessments of the turf were done in recent years which found “the field is nearing an unsafe condition for athletes,” administration's report says.
The Gazette will report on council's decision on whether or not the project's budget will be increased.
On-demand transit well used, but won't be expanded
City administration has found, according to a report to council, that St. Albert Transit's on-demand service system, called Book-A-Bus, is being so well utilized by the public that up to 35 per cent of ride requests are going unfulfilled during peak service hours on Saturday evenings.
Despite the significant uptake, and the significant number of rides that aren't being fulfilled, the city has no plans as of yet to expand the on-demand system, which has a current bus fleet of four.
Dean Schick, the city's manager of transportation, wrote in a report to council that St. Albert Transit (StAT) doesn't want to see such a high number of riders being unable to access service, however budget restraints mean the city is currently unable to expand the program.
“StAT has observed some periods and days of the week when unaccommodated trips reach a consistently high level,” he wrote, adding, “we have in these instances deployed additional busses, but we must do so carefully so as to remain within budget.”
“There are noticeable periods of the existing operation that could also use the addition of another bus, but we have held back in alignment with the approved operating budget.”
Currently StAT's on-demand service is offered weekday and Saturday evenings between 6:45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m., and between 6:00 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Sunday's and statutory holidays.