A split council vote on day five of the City’s operating budget debate was not enough to give the Ross Street Patio a test run next winter.
Administration had proposed a pilot project to leave the patio in place, to gauge whether it could be used as part of the Canada Winter Games festivities in 2019. Funding for the pilot would have come from reserves at a cost of $50,000.
Those opposed to the project were Councillors Tanya Handley, Lawrence Lee, Frank Wong and Mayor Tara Veer while Councillors Lynne Mulder, Paul Harris, Dianne Wyntjes and Buck Buchanan voted in favour of it.
Councillor Ken Johnston was absent from the meeting.
The Ross Street Patio has been a summer fixture since 2012. To make room for it, 17 parking stalls are removed as well as one lane of traffic.
Handley said that finding parking downtown is hard enough with the patio packed up for the winter. She spoke about making a large food order and having to drive around the block three times searching for a spot close to that business.
Handley said she didn’t find one and that inconvenience — which would be exacerbated by the patio — made her question whether she’d make that purchase again.
“I don’t want that for businesses in the downtown,” she said. “Right now, I say give the parking back to the people in winter.”
The budget report states nearly half of area businesses opposed making the patio permanent due to parking concerns.
Meanwhile, the tax rate increase was further reduced to 2.15% as council decided not to hire an additional transit employee to maintain City buses, saving $65,632.
As well, council heard that electricity costs for City facilities are going up as a result of the carbon tax and its impact on Power Purchase Agreements. The total financial impact on the City is $235,809 with $107,099 being tax supported.
Council also passed a resolution directing administration to give one year’s notice that it will withdraw from the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP). The City will pay its $39,933 membership for this year.
However, the resolution further directs administration to “explore alternative options” in working with regional partners in economic development.
“So what will happen in the coming year, the City will meet with CAEP to determine if there’s opportunities to partner with them on a project by project basis,” said Veer.
Some other items approved this afternoon included $70,000 for a Canada 150 celebration, $150,000 this year and next for additional staff and services to maintain storm infrastructure; and $100,000 to implement the City’s Community Safety Strategy. All items will be funded by reserves.
Deliberations on the 2017 Operating Budget are expected to take place until Friday.