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At council

City council worked their way through 21 motions during a budget deliberation meeting on Nov. 29, including the postponement of an update to the city's transportation master plan, the approval of $45,000 to upgrade the security system at Fire Hall No. 2, the creation of one full-time permanent position with the city, and the approval of $39,000 for increased grass mowing.

Transportation master plan update postponed

An update to the city's transportation master plan, originally developed in 2015, has been postponed till at least 2024, following a successful motion put forward by Coun. Shelley Biermanski. 

With only Coun. Wes Brodhead and Coun. Natalie Joly opposed, Biermanski's motion returns $800,000 to the capital budget for use on other projects. 

In a backgrounder prepared by Dean Schick, the city's transportation manager, Schick said municipalities experiencing continual growth like St. Albert usually update plans like a transportation master plan every five years. 

"With the city’s past document approaching a decade and recent key influences such as annexation, completion of the update to the Municipal Development Plan (MDP), and the completion of the Edmonton Region [Transportation Master Plan], the proposed timing of the St. Albert [Transportation Master Plan] is optimal in 2023 to align and best be informed by these overarching documents and support the regional conditions while targeting our jurisdictional needs," Schick said. 

"The project itself will require approximately 2 years for completion, due to scope associated with network analysis and modelling, public and stakeholder engagement."

During debate, Biermanski said her concern was spending $800,000 to update the plan now "at a time when government's evolving," in reference to Alberta's new government under Premier Danielle Smith. 

"Being that it's been this long since the transportation plan was done, and a delay of one year would not impact the city, again, I'm arguing it would be more impactful to have an accurate transportation plan next year," Biermanski said.

"I'm just reinforcing that saving consulting fees and accuracy and planning is, as should be, the utmost importance in our capital funding."

Fire Hall security measures

Fire Hall #2 on Boudreau Road next to the RCMP detachment will have $45,000 to upgrade it's security system next year after a motion put forward by Coun. Mike Killick passed unanimously on Nov. 29.

The security upgrades, included in the proposed 2023 budget as an unfunded capital project, "will include the installation of a security access system (to eliminate keyed cylinders), the installation of security cameras, and a public blue safety phone on the exterior of the building," the project charter states. 

In response to a question posed by Mayor Heron, the city's director of financial services Diane McCordie told council that the project was recommended to be unfunded based on the prioritization matrix administration uses to assess the city's needs.

"But what we don't apply is the political lens, because that's not our role," McCordie told council. 

"It just did not make sense to me," Killick said during debate. "We ask our firefighters to provide safety and security to our residents and for $45,000 we're not providing it to them."

"The other driver is that they have the old five button key push locks on the doors, and I just could not imagine that if council had that system on the doors coming into council chambers, and ... everybody else was allowed to card swipe but we had to push those five buttons every time to get in the door," Killick said.

New permanent position

A temporary project resource coordinator position with the City of St. Albert, which has been staffed continuously for the past eight years, will be converted to a permanent position next year after council defeated a motion put forward by Biermanski to keep the position temporary. 

Converting the position, at a cost of $1,500 in 2023, qualifies the staff member to receive pension benefits and access to long-term disability benefits.

“Suddenly creating a permanent full-time position in a budget year with the largest projected tax-increase in memory does not seem prudent or correct timing to [justify] simply strengthening the attractiveness of the role," Biermanski said during debate. 

"We’re currently in a financial climate where businesses are reducing staffing hours and not hiring. Government, like no other time, needs to follow suit and operate lean by [not] prioritizing permanent and costly staffing decisions,” she said.

Also speaking in favour of the motion was Coun. Sheena Hughes. “I don’t see the necessity — it’s clear it’s been filled for several years."

“The challenge we have every time we add a [full-time permanent position] is that it’s not just this year, it’s not just $1,500, it’s $1,500 plus a step up in [cost of living adjustments] for every year going forward.”

In opposition to the motion, Coun. Joly said the position remaining temporary would be detrimental to the city's reputation and workplace culture.

Biermanski's motion failed with only herself and Hughes in favour. 

Grass cutting standard

For $39,000 funded through taxes, the grass along St. Albert's roadways and main sidewalks will be mowed every 10 business days next year instead of every 12, per the current schedule.

The motion, put forward by Coun. Ken MacKay, passed on consent during the Nov. 29 council meeting. The motion reverses a decision council had made last year to reduce the 2022 property tax increase. 

According to a backgrounder prepared by Jay Mason, the city's director of public operations, the $39,000 will create three casual employment positions next summer. 

As the motion passed on consent, council did not debate or hold a vote.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

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