LETHBRIDGE - It was a fast paced second day of 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) deliberations, as all but one section of the budget was approved.
Council members, sitting as finance committee with Councillor Liz Iwaskiw as chair, will use this week (May 15-19) to make preparations for the first four years of the 10 year budget.
The public is encouraged to attend the debates at City Hall or watch online. The draft document with detailed project sheets (referenced below with project numbers) is available on the City of Lethbridge website.
A new strategy has been implemented to tackle the debate this round, as well. Instead of finance committee debating each project individually, every section is put into one resolution and voted on as a whole. Only projects that have resolutions brought forward will be debated in-depth.
Transportation projects (sections C/CO) were up first Tuesday (May 16) morning. All were eventually approved with a unanimous vote.
One amendment from Councillor Joe Mauro also passed, in order to accelerate the twinning of University Drive from the Community Stadium to Sunridge Boulevard (project CO-4) by two years up to 2020. Council members agreed that the expansion is needed as the west side of the city continues to grow at a rapid pace, and could greatly reduce traffic congestion in the area.
But another amendment proposed by Councillor Jeff Coffman was defeated, by a split 5-4 vote, to accelerate the preliminary design of the third bridge (project C-19) to 2020. It was noted by administration that the preliminary design takes all planning aspects of the project into account, could take 18 months to complete and that construction will take at least two years. Council members who voted against the motion mainly expressed that the bridge isn’t urgent enough to be moved forward and that the funding that was proposed to undertake the design could be spent better elsewhere at this time.
The conversation then moved on to environmental utilities (sections E/EO). Projects E-6 through E-10 -- dealing with curbside recycling, disposal cell development and closure as well as gas and leachate management at the landfill, waste and recycling centre enhancements and waste processing facility upgrades – were all passed without any amendments.
The wastewater treatment plan headworks and clarifier upgrades (project E-11) was the only project of the day to be postponed. Councillor Coffman proposed that it be removed for now, and that administration come back with a report outlining the history of the project – that was already approved in a previous CIP cycle, issues that have caused delays, work completed to this point and work that will be completed within the next four years.
Administration explained that project E-11 was included in a past CIP at $8.6-million, and $4.85-million has already been spent on it. The scope has since been changed, the headworks and clarifier upgrades are now better understood and the price tag has risen to $11.4-million. A total of $2.8-million in new funding will now need to be approved within E-11 to move forward with the new project scope. The matter is expected to come back to the table for further discussion and a vote on Thursday (May 18).
Projects E-12 through EO-5 were then approved with no further amendments.
It was also a quick turnaround for electric utilities (section F), which covers 12 total project sheets. Projects F-4 through F-15 were approved unanimously with no need for discussion or amendments.
Funded community projects (section D) were the last items on the agenda. All previously approved projects (D-5 to D-9), including phase two of the west Lethbridge operations depot, phase two of the ATB Centre, Legacy Park, the Yates Memorial Theatre renewal and art acquisition program, were approved unanimously without amendments. Projects to maintain current assets and other ongoing programs (D-10 to D-13) passed without any issues, as well.
Unsuccessful amendments were then proposed in the new facilities category by Councillor Blaine Hyggen to have the Bark Park (project D-15) moved to the unfunded community projects section, and another by Councillor Bridget Mearns to do the same with phase 3a of the west Lethbridge operations depot (project D-18). Projects D-14, 15, 17 and 18 were eventually passed as one block, and D-16 was approved as a second block.
Finance committee wrapped up their second meeting with a group of community planning projects (D-19 to D-23). One amendment was approved, proposed by Councillor Mearns, to remove the People Places Community Study (project D-23) from the 2018-2027 budget entirely. She and five other council members felt there was too much information duplicated within other existing studies and reports to commit $500,000 to another one.
Finally, projects D-19 to D-21 were approved unanimously, and D-22 was passed as a separate vote.
Unfunded community projects (D-24 to D-51) get underway Wednesday (May 17) from 10:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
Lethbridge's 2018-2027 CIP could be presented for final approval as early as next Tuesday (May 23).
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