On day seven of operating budget deliberations, Red Deer City council discussed many topics, including service cuts to snow removal, transit and recreation, all which they decided to leave alone.
Council had debated reducing the budget for snow plowing, and decided not to do so, as many councillors didn’t want to tamper with ‘Mother Nature.’
Plowing Grey Routes is currently standing at $1,000,000.
If voted in favour, the budget would have reduced the by around $200,000. It takes about 15 to 20 days for each plow the City does of Grey Routes, which costs $400,000.
Another item discussed was reducing recreation times, including reduced hours of operation for the Kinex Arena, reduced access to recreation facilities on statutory holidays and reduced operating hours at the Collicutt Centre and GH Dawe Community Centre on Sundays.
The only one to come back for consideration is the access to recreation facilities on stat holidays, which could potentially see a reduction in access.
A large topic of debate was the service reduction of transit. Still to come back for consideration is looking at an alternative for evening hours for regular bus routes on weekdays.
“One of the things I’ve advocated for ever since becoming a councillor was that I believed transit is a very vital component of our community and an essential service,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee.
“My intention is to provide service to those citizens that require it, but I really believe there’s a better way of doing it and I’ve advocated from the beginning to have real, empirical data in terms of ridership routes, times of day and those sorts of efficiencies.”
He added that it’s becoming more and more clear to him that the way municipalities should look at transit is in a way that best serves people in the most cost effective manner for the tax base.
“I’m looking at things like ridership on demand. We have to innovate that into a holistic system that suits the consumer demand to meet their ridership within the community,” he said.
Coun. Dianne Wytnjes also voiced her concerns, saying not everyone is lucky enough to have a car, and that transit is important for those needing to get to work or just simply get around.
“I just ask the public to be a bit more patient with us,” she said, adding that they have a transit master plan coming to them soon.
“I think it’s really important that when you’re dealing with transit it’s very interconnected so we better be careful of the parts that we move and how they impact people,” she said.
A plan will be coming to council at the end of the first quarter of 2018.
Also discussed at council was Freon no longer being free. The City will now charge people to dump freon-containing appliances.
Freon is an ozone depleting substance, and is critical to collect the freon in a way that prevents release to the environment.
The City currently doesn’t charge a fee for freon removal, but will now charge a flat rate of $25 for those appliances containing freon. This would mean that the City will collect $22 for each item, which would result in a total of $47,000 in 2018.
Blackfalds and Sylvan Lake already charge $25, while Red Deer County charges $40 and Innisfail, $45.
Additionally, council approved almost $1 million in sponsorship revenue, which was acquired last year.
The sponsorships total is $928,830, which will go towards Great Chief Park, the downtown area, northeast community sports fields, the spray park and Red Deer Lights the Night.