City Council approves budget after lengthy debate

2012 Capital Budget finalized at $94.8 million

After a full day in Council Chambers, Red Deer City council approved a budget of $94.8 million for capital projects in 2012.

“I want to emphasize that this is one of the single most important decisions that council makes throughout the year,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

The original recommended budget of $93 million was adjusted after more than 90 items were considered, discussed and approved.

Some of the items that received council’s support included Centennial projects like a spray park, skateboard park and a permanent exhibit at the museum for a cost of $3.6 million for the three items.

Also included, and actually added to the budget rather last-minute, was a library for Red Deer’s east side to be included in the Timberlands Elementary School.

An initial grant of up to $450,000 would be provided for the library in 2013 with operational costs to be taken up in 2014 when the school opens.

The library would be a partnership between Red Deer Public Schools and the Red Deer Public Library.

“I speak in strong support of this motion. It will bring us closer as a community and I think that’s very valuable to where we’re going in terms of walkability in our centres,” said Councillor Lynne Mulder.

Mulder said the partnership is a great benefit as it keeps costs lower than what they would be if the City took on building a stand-alone library.

Public convenience items including the ability to pay utility bills electronically and an upgrade to the City of Red Deer web site were also included in the budget for almost $450,000 for the two items.

Weighing heavily on many Red Deerians’ minds is the maintenance of roads through the winter, which council did address. New snow and ice removal equipment was approved for a total cost of $980,000.

Many grants and funding sources were considered and factored into decisions on which projects would be completed in 2012 versus which ones would be considered multi-year projects to be completed in the coming 10 years.

“We would not even propose something that we didn’t have the funding for either on a one-time basis or on a continuing basis,” said Flewwelling.

Other City vehicles will see improvements and funding with $1.3 million provided to expand the City vehicle fleet with another $4 million to replace existing vehicles.

Red Deer Transit funding was originally going to be limited to $482,000 but was changed to a sum of $1.988 million. The money is for system-wide intelligent transit technology. The Red Deer Transit changes will be funded in part by a Green TRIP federal grant as well as a federal gas tax fund.

One of the other budget items that will largely impact a great number of Red Deerians are the upcoming changes to the Taylor Dr. at Alexander Way intersection.

“We’ve had citizens coming to us asking where they can go to get across as well as when that intersection will be safe,” said Councillor Paul Harris.

City Manager Craig Curtis said these changes are necessary as the City looks to develop the Riverlands industrial area west of Taylor Dr.

Council approved slightly more than $14 million for the project, which was also deemed a multi-year project.

Councillors Buck Buchanan, Chris Stephan and Frank Wong voted against these changes.

Other road-changing budgetary items included an allocation of $4.7 million for the Gaetz Avenue Revitalization Project’s final three blocks, and $5.4 million to do major upgrades along 32nd St. from 40th Ave. to Spruce Dr.

Councillors Frank Wong and Chris Stephan voted against the budget, but the remaining councillors and Flewwelling voted in favour.