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Counting up the capital cost

Last Tuesday, members of St. Albert council debated budget motions and decided which projects they would fund in 2019. Twenty-nine motions were brought forward, with seven of them passing on consent and one being withdrawn.
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Council is moving forward on funding the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive after years of advocating to the province for help. The city is hoping they will not need to pay for the entire project but rather the province will eventually chip in for the road.

Last Tuesday, members of St. Albert council debated budget motions and decided which projects they would fund in 2019.

Twenty-nine motions were brought forward, with seven of them passing on consent and one being withdrawn.

In the end, council created a budget with a 0.4-per-cent tax increase for the city, up from the zero per cent originally proposed by administration.

Recreation facility

$1.5 million in funding was removed for 2019

City councillors voted to nix $1.5 million in funding for a recreation facility.

Mayor Cathy Heron, who proposed removing the funding, said she didn't want to see the city commit $1.5 million for a facility council hasn't even chosen yet. However, the decision does not mean council has no intention of proceeding with a project.

Heron said if they remove the funding, the money would go back into the capital reserve and would be available if they need it. City manager Kevin Scoble told council all it would take to access the money would be a vote by council.

The mayor added even if council did select one of the many recreation facilities before them right now, the first year would only require a feasibility study, which would likely cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

Council is still weighing its options for a future recreation facility and is considering six proposals.

Ray Gibbon Drive twinning

$780,000 in 2019

Councillors have approved $780,000 in 2019 for the engineering and design of improvements to the intersection at LeClair Way down Ray Gibbon Drive to the southern city limit. The recommended 10-year capital plan also earmarks $7,914,000 in 2020 for construction along that leg of the road.

After LeClair Way, the next tentative phase would be twinning from north of LeClair to north of McKenney Avenue, while the third phase would be from McKenney Avenue to Giroux Road.

Council members have said they haven’t given up on getting provincial money for the project, but Heron said councillors and city staff realized in September how important it was to get started on twinning the road, after the city released its network roadway evaluation. By tackling the south end of the road first, the city hopes to help speed up the flow of traffic near Edmonton.

“I honestly believe that if we could eliminate that bottleneck, we would probably get rid of a majority of the headaches (for) people who do drive that road,” Heron said in October.

Storefront library

$796,200 in 2019

Coun. Ken MacKay brought forward a motion to fund a storefront library in the north of the city, which passed in a 6-1 vote. Coun. Sheena Hughes was the lone dissenting voice.

The library brings with it a total budget impact of $796,200 in 2019. That includes a capital cost of $517,000 for the location’s lease fees, which would be funded from the capital reserve, and $279,200 in operating costs, which would come from taxes. Operating costs are expected to be higher after 2019.

Intersection enhancements on St. Albert Trail

$2.15 million in 2019

Some $2.15 million of the proposed $7.9-million capital growth budget (or 27 per cent of spending) will be spent on improving the intersection at St. Albert Trail and Boudreau Road, which is often congested due to high traffic volumes.

That intersection also has a higher number of collisions than other intersections in the city and regularly has the highest collision rate in the city’s year-end traffic reports.

Work began this year on the engineering and detailed design for those improvements, as well as a network evaluation. Next year, the city hopes to rehabilitate the intersection’s asphalt structure.

The city will also spend $300,000 to upgrade the municipal engineering standards, while $500,000 is earmarked for traffic calming strategies. Some $600,000 will be spent on Safe Journeys to School.

Fowler Way design and construct

$6.66 million through offsite levy

Council has approved the funding for the process of building a new east-west arterial road.

The road will be accommodated through a realignment of Villeneuve Road. It will connect Ray Gibbon Drive and travel northeast to tie into St. Albert Trail at Neil Ross Road.

Some $250,000 will be spent in 2019 for concept planning, followed by $3,910,000 for the purchase of land in 2022. In 2022 and 2023, $2.5 million in total will go toward design work.

Construction of the road is planned for 2025 and will cost $27.1 million.

It is proposed as a 50/50 cost-share split between the city and developers.

North St. Albert Trail corridor management implementation

$960,000 in 2019 from offsite levy

Council approved funding upgrades to the north end of St. Albert Trail through offsite levy dollars.

The upgrades will include the detailed engineering and design work and construction of St. Albert Trail from north of Boudreau Road up to the north limit of the city. The work will be done in three phases, with Phase 1 running from north of Boudreau to Coal Mine Road, Phase 2 running from Coal Mine Road to north of Everitt Drive North and Phase 3 running from north of Everitt Drive North up past Neil Ross Road.

Overall, the project will cost $18.95 million, with $8.24 million set aside in 2020, $5.03 million in 2021 and $4.76 million in 2022.

Millennium Park

$964,000 in 2020

Heron brought forward a motion to begin funding the construction of Millennium Park in 2020, rather than wait until 2023.

Council members passed the motion, but it does not necessarily mean the park will proceed next year. Council approves the budget annually and they could vote to postpone construction of the park if they feel the city does not have the financial means to proceed.

Heron brought the motion forward because she said the city had already invested a lot of money in planning the park. The city held public consultation sessions and engaged with Dialog Design to run place-making exercises to help engage residents with the design of the park.

The mayor said residents were enthusiastic about the project and the city spent money on public engagement, so she would like to see the project considered for next year.

Refrigerated outdoor ice surface

$1.2 million in 2019

Members of St. Albert city council voted in favour of funding a refrigerated outdoor ice surface with a domed roof for $1.2 million. Coun. Sheena Hughes proposed the project, which she said would give residents an extra place to skate and serve as a stopgap solution to the need for new ice in the city.

The new setup would keep the ice frozen for any weather below 8 C and would allow skaters to enjoy the ice for much longer stretches of time in the winter months.

“You can start visiting from the middle to end of October right up until the end of March or beginning of April,” Hughes said Nov. 27 when council voted to approve the motion.

Hockey teams can currently book outdoor ice if they wish, but Hughes said they are reluctant to do so right now because they don’t know in advance if the ice conditions will be good enough to actually host a practice.

“We have taken the usable ice time from five to six weeks to five to six months. And we can use it when the weather is actually enjoyable,” Hughes said.

The ice surface, worth $875,000, passed 6-1 with Heron voting against it. A separate motion for the dome roof, worth $300,000, passed unanimously.

Annual Rotary Music Festival

$5,000 proposed but voted down

Coun. Jacquie Hansen proposed giving $5,000 to the Rotary Music Festival to support the festival in the city. The motion failed, with councillors noting the Rotary Festival turns a profit and does not need city funding.

Hansen said while the festival does make money, they turn the money around and give it back to students through scholarships.

In the end, councillors agreed they would find another way to support the festival, which is held annually in the city.

Mayor’s Celebration 10th anniversary of the arts

Reduced from $10,000 to $5,000

Council voted to reduce the funding for a video to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts. City staff originally pitched the project with a price tag of $10,000, but council decided that was too much money for the video.

Hughes wanted to eliminate the funding completely, but councillors decided instead to cut the funding in half, with Coun. Wes Brodhead voting in favour of some funding because “there are some things worth celebrating.”

Joly, the only other council member aside from Hughes who supported removing funding for the video, was not in favour of the spending because “municipalities have a reputation for overpaying for services like this,” and said the price tag is high.

In the end, council members voted unanimously to reduce the funding.

Strategic planning session

$10,000 annually

City council members voted to earmark $10,000 per year over the next few years to save up for an external facilitator to help with the next council's strategic planning session.

City staff originally recommended spending $20,000 this year for an external facilitator, but councillors decided to update their strategic plan using in-house resources instead. The $10,000 per year will add up to $40,000 by the time next council's strategic planning rolls around, which will allow them to build their plan with the help of a facilitator.

Transit feasibility study

$60,000 in 2019

Last Tuesday, city councillors voted to fund a transit study that will look at whether local schools can swap out their traditional yellow school buses for public transit instead.

The study, which councillors voted for unanimously, will take a look at how students use transit and will cost a total of $60,000, down from the $75,000 that was originally proposed.

Hansen put forward the motion to reduce the study's funding.

Free transit for youth

$15,000 in 2019

Hughes brought forward a motion she hopes will help collect data for the transit feasibility study.

She proposed allowing the city’s youth to use public transit for free next year so the city can collect data on how many students will naturally switch over to the public system without the city having to jump in with both feet to ending the yellow bus system.

Hughes said the impact of giving free transit to youth would be a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of running the transit system. Right now, St. Albert Transit generates around $15,000 from its youth riders and Hughes said the system costs millions per year to operate.

Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette and has been with Great West Media since 2015
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