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City of Red Deer feels economic slowdown pinch

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A slower economy and lower revenues have forced the City to put some infrastructure projects on hold.

Red Deer City council heard the news during yesterday’s council meeting as they reviewed the annual audit report. The audit was conducted by KPMG LLP, an independent accounting firm.

“Over the last two years it has been slower (growth) than anticipated because of the population,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “We didn’t know exactly what the population would do and the fact that we have been sort of stagnant for essentially a year and half means that we are not getting that normal level of growth which spurs the revenue, which spurs the expansion.

“We have been through this scenario before, it’s just somewhat worse than the 2009 slowdown.”

One of the biggest projects, the North Highway Connector, which is an 8 km long bypass expressway around the east side of Red Deer, will be affected.

Various legs of the project have been pushed out about three years.

“This is one of our biggest capital projects. It was originally going to receive provincial funding, and when it did not, more municipal funding had to be allocated,” said Curtis.

He added the community may see some minor implications because of the delay in the project.

“Some of the existing roads like the 67th Street bridge will get busier because some of the new bridge (on the North Highway Connector) is not being built as soon as planned. I think you’ll see a growing tendency for our existing roads to have a higher capacity flow.”

Slower residential growth in the City has also played a role in project delay.

“In addition, some of our other infrastructure projects in terms of linking roads and water and sewer have been put on hold because of the slower expansion of our residential areas,” said Curtis. “There are other pieces across the City (that are affected) whether it be up in Queen’s Industrial Park or whether it’s on the southeast side. It’s really across the board in conjunction with the slower growth.

“That would of course include areas of EL&P (Electric, Light and Power), water and sewer in conjunction with those roads and multi-purpose trails that go along them. The projects that have been put on hold were already reflected in the capital plan that we presented. We were already pretty much aware of the financial challenges back in November and in January.”

Meanwhile, despite the City having to slow down on some projects, Curtis added the interchange development south of Red Deer, the new courthouse and expansion at the airport will bring necessary economic development to the community.

“I think as far as residents are concerned during the budget, council tried to respond to the economic challenges people were experiencing by freezing user fees in transit and recreation and also by having the lowest tax increase in 15 years.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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