No spinning over parkade

The City is hell bent on making sure the Alberta government delivers on its intentions.

Last week, a huge splash was made in Red Deer with the Municipal Planning Commission’s (MPC) approval of a $57 million expansion for the Cancer Centre.

While this is all a marvelous health care bonanza for Red Deer and the region, the City is adamant the province must finally step up to the plate and construct a parkade, which could cost up to $20 million, to facilitate the expansion, and just as importantly, relieve the parking burdens and headaches area residents have been forced to endure for years.

This has been a plan that has been in the works for a decade and the City strongly feels the province has run out of excuses to delay it much longer.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) officials told MPC they are “pushing hard” to get the multi-storey parkade done as a future development, even suggesting some sort of timeline is imminent. In the interim, AHS has made a deal with nearby Bettenson’s Holdings for the leasing of space to accommodate 180 parking stalls starting this November. As a condition for approval, or perhaps more accurately a not-so-subtle push at the province to get its act together – MPC ordered the space be hard surfaced within a year.

What was emphasized by City officials at the MPC hearing was the “final solution” – that being a major parking structure built at the hospital.

But this “final solution” with the province could very well take even longer. Firstly, there are two government bureaucracies involved here – AHS and Alberta Infrastructure. Who will ultimately decide to pay what and when is anyone’s guess.

And then two days after last week’s MPC meeting the province announced a projected deficit of $4.76-billion in its first-quarter update to the 2010-11 budget. With that in mind, and the ongoing controversies around the pending closures of two Red Deer nursing homes (an issue the province has not convincingly explained as being anything close to being fiscally prudent), the Alberta government may not have the stomach, will or even vision to finally proceed with the parkade – at least until shortly before the next provincial election when desperate times trigger the usual capital project promises.

In the meantime, the City and many hospital workers and area residents could once again be left to wonder why the province continues to procrastinate, especially when it makes sense to put the cancer care addition and parkade projects together, and that a parkade would be a revenue generator to offset the overall cost.

The province, without resorting to spin control messaging, owes Red Deer a simple and better explanation.