Reader questions downtown spending

  • Aug. 20, 2014 5:04 p.m.

Will downtown Red Deer bankrupt the City or at the very least put some of our citizens into bankruptcy?

A silly question or is it a worrisome reality?

Every downtown needs to revitalize and re-invent itself to stay relevant in our ever-changing societies, but when do we say enough is enough?

When does it become corporate welfare to have businesses downtown?

Are we punishing the businesses in the malls, the stores in the outer regions of the City by spending tax dollars on the downtown? Did the City spend a $1 million on a patio for the mall businesses?

Years ago there was a group of ugly maintenance buildings over-looking the river by Taylor Bridge.

Prime real estate for the residential market and it made sense to move the buildings to a less conspicuous and more industrial setting.

Ok, we will do it and now let us see where we are.

We have the Taj Mahal public works yard on the river at a cost of over $100 million, we are spending tens of millions on intersection upgrades and burying power lines and demolishing the buildings.

Upgrading the services, developing the land will cost more.

There is talk of a water feature and a pedestrian bridge over the river for easier access to the golf course and Bower Ponds for the residents of Riverlands at taxpayers’ expense.

Two hundred million dollars of taxpayers’ money and we are still years away from a possible sale, remember the rail yards and does anyone believe it will still be a profitable venture or will this just be a legacy for a politician or two?

Let us now venture into other issues involving the downtown, $100 million pools, concert halls, statues, patios, events, expanding City Hall, and you start to see a debt problem.

We are already seeing Blackfalds passing us in residential building permits and they have a population of 7,300 compared to our 98,500.

Is this a sign that our priorities may be skewed?

Is our tax rate pushing people away to municipalities with lower tax rates?

Are we on the right track with so much emphasis on the downtown? Is it good economic sense or simply corporate welfare?

Should a store in a mall be subsidizing its competitors downtown? What is our return on our investment? Are all the businesses downtown profiting from the City’s largesse or just a few?

A year ago a lot of people were incensed by the money they deemed wasted downtown, that they considered the need to establish a ward system to combat the influence of the Downtown Business Association.

A plebiscite was held and it was defeated, but if the City continues in this expensive direction, it may push the citizens to renew their call for the ward system.

This time they may, like the City during the last plebiscite, budget $30,000 on advertising and education.

So is the question of the downtown bankrupting the City or some citizens a silly question or a worrisome reality?

You decide.

Garfield Marks

Red Deer