The City of Red Deer saw many successes in 2014 and the City’s mayor is looking to carry that through to the New Year.
In reflecting back on the past year, Mayor Tara Veer said some challenges for the City included taking another look at the snow and ice control policy in which council increased the budget for.
“We needed to respond to the growth in the community and provide a better level of service to residential areas, to transit routes and to sidewalks,” she said. “In about a six-week period we were able to come up with a new plan and we’re weeks into a two-year plan. The feedback has been positive particularly around major arterials, collector roads and transit routes. We’re getting some mixed reviews on residential side streets. Windrows continue to be a source of public concern.”
Another challenge that council had to resolve was with respect to the chicken bylaw.
“It was apparent that we had a very divided public and I think where we landed it allowed some provision for responsible owners to have chickens as an option with very stringent regulations around when that can occur which are in the broader public interest as well.”
Veer added bike lanes were also something council resolved this year. “We also saw the removal of some of the more contentious lanes which were impacting transit access and vehicle movements as well as pedestrian conflicts (along 39th St.).”
She also added council made headway on transportation and road infrastructure in 2014.
One of the successes that council saw this past year was the province’s decision to revisit their intention to consolidate ambulance dispatch.
“We had a strong vested interest in this because our citizens were directly affected as well as our City operations. They came up with a collaborative model which allows the City of Red Deer to be a regional service provider for ambulance dispatch,” said Veer. “I cannot over emphasize the positive impact that has for our citizenry in that maintaining local ambulance dispatch is essential to providing the four minute or less response time with ambulance or fire.”
Another success for the City was the announcement that the Michener Centre would remain open.
“Our public position to the provincial government has always been to keep Michener Centre open and that those public assets should remain public,” said Veer.
Other successes this past year included securing the 2019 Canada Winter Games, the 2016 Memorial Cup and the ESSO Cup to be held next year.
“Much of our efforts for 2014 were built around the Games’ bid. In reflecting back in that window of time when we were waiting between rally day and the bid announcement day – it crystallized for me how if we won the Games or if we didn’t win the Games of how it would shift the focus in one way or another because there were so many plans we were looking at – both the capital plan and looking to the future – where it was conditional on whether or not we won the Games,” said Veer. “As a born and raised Red Deerian, we have many examples of community pride but in my view those two days were unparalleled in terms of community spirit that Red Deerians demonstrated. I have no doubt in my mind that it was Red Deerians’ spirit that secured us the Games.”
As to 2015, Veer said she looks to see continued success.
“I think one of council’s areas of focus for next year will be continuing work on the strategic plan and what do we want Red Deer to look and feel like when we welcome Canadians in 2019,” she said.
Veer added council will also focus on a couple of challenges of community concern that have been identified.
“That has to do with response to our review on the continuum of policing and enforcement. In our annual statistically significant survey, our public has identified for us that community safety is their number one priority. With the arrival of our new police chief I feel confident that we are moving forward at the pace we need to be in terms of establishing our local service levels and our local enforcement priorities.”
Veer said vehicle noise in the City is another challenge that council will tackle in 2015.
“Municipalities have been in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to vehicle noise for many, many years because we have some legislation which is enforceable but the enforcement tools in order to match that legislation are lacking. Our public continuously identifies that punctuation of inconsiderate vehicle noise is a priority issue. The pilot that council approved will commence in 2015 and I think it makes the best out of some of the challenges we are faced with provincially.
“But it takes the position that our community has spoken loud and clear that their tolerance for disrespectful noise pollution needs to be aligned around the greater public interest.”
Meanwhile, personally Veer said 2014 was a good year as it was her inaugural year as mayor.
“As much as there are similarities as a councillor and I feel very strongly that my councillor role prepared me well for the mayor’s office, there are always things that you don’t experience until you’re there. I have been particularly pleased with how young people in our community have responded to local government in a new way,” she said. “It amazes me how many children and youth have shown interest in local government. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to build upon that.”