Budget deliberations continued Thursday with different topics debated including tree replacement, pickleball development, Heritage Ranch/Waskasoo special gathering placement enhancement and the Rotary Recreation Park and South area enhancements among other topics.
This year’s budget, projected at just over $81 million, is the lowest in a decade.
The City of Red Deer Parks Department is responsible for over 35,000 trees in their urban and natural areas.
In 2016, the City had about 1,800 trees, a back log of ones they hadn’t yet replaced, and due to this past summer’s devastating wind storm, the City lost thousands more.
“The capital request for this 2018 budget is to help combat that backlog but we also have opportunities with grants and community groups with our junior foresters as well as our Grade one program,” said Sarah Cockerill, director of community services.
As part of the 2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy, the board of directors has identified a potential tree legacy in that there might be 2,019 trees planted in and around Red Deer as part of their legacy program.
“Their legacy program of course needs to be funded after the Games and so they would need to fundraise to make sure that that happened, but it is part of their ongoing legacy of the Games is to have that investment in trees,” said Cockerill.
She added that the City is looking to be able to replace approximately 380 trees with the capital investment.
As to the pickleball development, many sites are being considered, but according to City Manager Craig Curtis, timing would be dependent on the choice of the site.
So far, planning dollars have been approved, but capital for construction is still being discussed. The plan is 2019, but council will debate on having it potentially moved to 2018.
Curtis said their goal is to choose a site and do consultation on that site within the next two months.
“It’s a major investment, it’s a major design,” said Curtis.
City council also deferred the Heritage Ranch/Waskasoo special gathering placement enhancement, as Mayor Tara Veer said that wherever possible council is trying to find cost savings.
She added the recommended Capital Budget is already $26 million less than what they had anticipated last year.
In the Nov. 29th budget deliberations there were some refurbishments that were approved for Heritage Ranch, some which included safety components and revitalization of the existing assets there.
“What was deferred today until 2019 were new amenities as identified in the Waskasoo special gathering placement, so Heritage Ranch will see refurbishments this year but instead of doing all the work in one year, it’s essentially phasing it over two years,” said Veer.
City council decided that the $167,000 allocated be reduced in the budget, and be funded from another source.
Council also had lengthy discussions on fleet, fleet policy and budget, and on Nov. 29th focused on the discussion of fleet replacement, which involved keeping their existing levels of service.
“The fleet replacement budget is less than what it normally is anticipated to be. There were cost savings identified by administration in fleet replacement,” said Veer.
A new strategy was also adopted.
“Normally fleet vehicles are replaced every eight years, but in order to extend the life of those capital assets, administration has identified that we’ll move to a ten-year program instead of an eight-year program that will allow savings for the taxpayer without comprising our service to citizens.”
She added that normally the growth related fleet budget is in the millions of dollars, but that this year it was considerably less.
“That really does serve as an indicator that we are in a recessionary budget. This is not a growth-driven budget as identified by that fleet growth item being so nominal.”
Among other topics discussed were the Bower Ponds Node Enhancements, Canada Winter Games venue investments, River Bend Golf and Recreation Area (golf preservation), Gaetz Ave. and Hwy. 2 entrance/gateway features and Canada Winter Games – venue investments (pageantry).