REFLECTING- Mayor Morris Flewwelling talks about the challenges and highlights of 2011 as City council prepares for 2012.

REFLECTING- Mayor Morris Flewwelling talks about the challenges and highlights of 2011 as City council prepares for 2012.

City’s mayor reflects on the challenges of 2011

Tighter budgets have brought restrictions to overall vision

As 2011 comes to a close, Mayor Morris Flewwelling reflects on the last year and looks forward to 2012.

Some of the challenges council faced in 2011 included getting a hold of the secondary suites issue in Red Deer.

“We worked methodically last year and this year and we have worked through the approval of secondary suites and we’ve even gone as far to license secondary suites,” said Flewwelling. “We’re leading the province.”

He added council also had to stick to a tight budget.

“Budget-wise and operations-wise we were coming into a downsized mode because the financial crisis of 2008 really got enacted into the 2011 budget,” said Flewwelling. “We had a very much trimmed capital budget and a no-nonsense operations budget and it’s even tighter for 2012.”

Snow removal in 2011 was a challenge the City faced as well.

“We had a particularly difficult year and then I think we left it too late to clear the residential areas,” he said. “We’re still not out of that budget deficit yet, although we do have money to fund it. But it did cause us to review our policy.”

He added another challenge for City council was the realization a 50-metre pool and a concert hall could not feasibly be built in the next number of years.

“That is tough because there are groups in our community that could really benefit from that.”

The City also accomplished many projects in 2011 including finishing Veteran’s Park, the re-opening of the renovated Dawe Centre and the opening of the new RCMP building downtown. Development of the North Highway connector continues to be underway as well.

Looking ahead, Flewwelling said council looks forward to seeing the curling rink renovations and the new seats in the Centrium. “Those are modest but they are important for the City.”

He added he is also looking forward to seeing the Movement Study progress.

“This is a critical study. Instead of doing a transportation study which we have done with vehicles and roads, this is a complete streets program where we incorporate pedestrians, transit, cyclists, rollerbladers and our parks trails being integrated into our roads. Bike lanes will be looked at as well.”

In terms of challenges for 2012, Flewwelling said the biggest one will be financial.

“We’re blessed but we’re on a short leash,” he said. “One of the crunches in going forward is our assessment is not growing. We were used to getting three or four million dollars additional a year because more things were built for taxes – not so anymore. We’re also getting less on our reserves and investments.”

As Flewwelling has stated he will not seek re-election in 2013, but he said he would like to make sure there are some centennial projects under his belt before the next municipal election is held. “We’re working on that now. We’ve had a slow start to that but there are some really interesting projects coming on scene. The skateboard park and the spray park that we just approved as part of our capital budget will both be centennial projects.”

He added he is also looking forward to seeing some activity in Riverlands.

“I would like to see the market come to fruition or the brew pub so that it’s at least started. That was one of the reasons I ran in the last election. I felt Riverlands needed one more term of me pushing it to get moving.”

Flewwelling commended council for being forward thinking and being mindful of what the public wants. “We were working with a new council,” he said. “It is a very different council and a very action-oriented council. It’s a very aggressive council. They are very responsive to messages from the public, so they are always looking for input. It’s a very engaged council.”

First up on the agenda for council in 2012 will be tackling the operating budget. Presentations for the budget run from Jan. 3 to Jan. 10. Council will debate the budget beginning on Jan. 12.