The 2019 Budget Open House gave citizens the chance to chat with City officials and council members to share what they would like to see prioritized in the upcoming year. For many, crime prevention and safety were a consistent concern.
“Part of our budget process is always to go out to the public and citizens and seek feedback on what sort of changes they would like to see, what they’d like to see more of and what they’d like to see less of and then we use that as we build our budget for 2019,” said Dean Krejci, chief financial officer for the City of Red Deer.
The Open House is the main opportunity for Red Deerians to contribute their thoughts on budget planning.
Residents who remember what Red Deer was like several decades ago mourn the loss of there sense of safety in the City. They are hopeful that as the economy improves and with a municipal focus on crime prevention it might once again have that comfortable feel.
“Downtown needs to be safer,” said Sara Rattray, whose main reason for coming to the event was to meet more of the staff at City Hall and speak with City councillors both to give kudos and express concerns.
She spoke about no longer doing her banking in the city core because it left her feeling uneasy.
“I never used to be afraid to walk downtown, I’m not afraid now, I’m just a lot more cautious, I’m making myself aware of my surroundings,” she said.
In her view, continuing to invest in a strong police presence on the streets downtown is a necessary cost.
“I don’t like it—I don’t like having to feel vulnerable,” Rattray said.
Her thoughts were echoed by Kyle Pess, who recently moved back to his hometown to raise his young family. He feels that crime reduction is an area that money needs to be spent.
“I think about how safe it was for us to ride our bikes across town before. I don’t know if I have that same comfort now thinking of my daughter doing it,” he said.
“I think Red Deer took a beating, to put it lightly, with what Alberta went through and I think that always brings out the worst in a lot of people. Desperation does that, it’s unfortunate but it’s a reality. I’m optimistic that things are getting better but crime is quite high in Red Deer per capita.
“It’s not the same place that we grew up in with 50-60 000 people.”
David Fletcher, a second-year social work student at RDC, who recently moved to Central Alberta from Toronto, came to the open house interested in how budget choices would affect vulnerable populations. Transit was also of particular interest to him.
Transit and road maintenance came up as important topics as areas for continued development, not major investments.
There were attendants who indicated on boards around the room that they were fine to see tax increases if it meant maintaining or increasing the services offered.
“Certainly hot topics always seem to be transit, snow and ice removal and the one thing we may see some traffic on is our 50 meter pool coming on our capital budget,” Krejci said.
The pool came up four years ago in the Community Amenities Charter. Citizens rated it number two as a priority. Its design is slated to be debated by council for 2019. The current plan is for it to be added to the downtown rec. centre.