LETHBRIDGE - After five days of intense debates, Lethbridge's 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) will be forwarded to City Council for final approval on Tuesday (May 23).
They used this past week (May 15-19), sitting as finance committee with Councillor Liz Iwaskiw as chair, to put a 10-year long draft budget together and officially approve the first four years. That document with detailed project sheets (referenced below with project numbers) is available on the City of Lethbridge website.
It takes into consideration the desire to complete previously approved projects, take care of existing assets, plan for the future and put new projects in place that will enhance the community as a whole.
"It got contentious at times, but that’s only because people really care about this community… I think we all want to spend money wisely. I think everybody has their favourite projects, but we need to consider what’s best for the most people possible. I think, for the most part, we did that,” said Councillor Iwaskiw, after what she jokingly proclaimed was one of the longest weeks of her life.
“It was a lot of back and forth, but we didn’t slide through anything… I think everything got the amount of time it needed, and I think we made really good decisions.”
Council members had $62,622,000 in unrestricted funds over the entire 10-year context to finance any unfunded projects. Of that, $51,742,000 was available within the next four-year window (shown above, right chart).
What went unspent in this budget, totaling around $10-million, will be kept in reserves for any projects for Council to use at their discretion for future projects.
"We don’t know what's going to come next, and it’s happened to us before where there has been money from other levels of government… and we haven’t had the money to match whatever was out there and we’ve missed out. It needs to be a few million in reserve, and we have that,” Councillor Iwaskiw went on.
This 2018-2027 draft budget was prepared assuming that a replacement funding program will be introduced by the provincial government for 2022-2027 at current funding levels after the current Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) ends around 2021.
As noted below, MSI replacement "shadow funding" was used for projects in those years, which means the next Lethbridge City Council will be responsible for approving and committing to those projects in the next four years of this CIP once an announcement for a replacement program is made.
The draft budget totals $385-million in capital projects, including $145-million in community facilities, $70-million for transportation and $170-million for utilities. The following passed the finance committee vote, and will be recommended to be included in this CIP:
Tuesday, May 16
- all transportation projects (sections C/CO), one amendment approved to accelerate twinning of University Drive from the Community Stadium to Sunridge Boulevard (project CO-4) by two years up to 2020;
- all environmental utilities projects (sections E/EO)
- all electric utilities projects (section F);
- all previously approved community projects (D-5 to D-9);
- all projects that maintain current assets and ongoing programs (D-10 to D-13);
- all new facilities projects (D-15 to D-18); and
- all planning projects (D-19 to D-23).
Wednesday, May 17
- $400,000 in 2018 for protective fencing along the eastern edge of Alexander Wilderness Park and southern boundary of Six Mile Coulee (project D-25);
- $310,000 in 2018 for parking lot upgrades at Galt Museum (project D-26);
- $5.2-million in "shadow funding" for a Galt Gardens reconstruction (project D-27), amended by Councillor Carlson to start in 2022 instead of 2018; and
- $2.3-million in 2018 for phase two of the Spitz Stadium grandstand (project D-29).
Thursday, May 18
- $9.03-million in 2018 for 3 Avenue South reconstruction from 4 Street to 8 Street (project D-31);
- $273,000 in 2018 for planning and $2.567-million in 2019 to construct a multi-purpose community facility at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens (project D-32);
- $208,000 in the first four years for heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades and $725,000 in "shadow funding" for the remaining expansion costs at the Crossings library in 2022 (project D-34);
- $6.6-million in 2019 to add amenities at Legacy Park (project D-35);
- $9.03 in "shadow funding" to relocate fire station three to 16 Avenue South and create a 911 back up to start in 2022 (project D-36);
- $1.754-million in 2018, $4.095-million in 2019 and $3.951-million in 2020 to build a new fire station in the southern end of the city's west side (project D- 37);
- $9.8-million in "shadow funding" for Yates Memorial Centre enhancements to start in 2022 (project D-40);
- $300,000 in 2018 for a concept design and $1.9-million in 2022 to carry out a 3 Avenue South beautification from Stafford Drive to Mayor Magrath Drive (project D-41);
- $1-million to begin 4 Avenue South enhancements from 5 Street to 7 Street in 2019, with patio bump outs available throughout the downtown (project D-42);
- $30-million in "shadow funding" to replace the Civic and Adams ice centres with a twin arena starting in 2024 (project D-45);
- $2.2-million in "shadow funding" to plan and build an administrative building at the Royal View Memorial cemetery starting in 2025 (project D-46); and
- $240,000 in 2018 for planning and $2.46-million in 2019 for multiple enhancements at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG) (project D-47).
Friday, May 19
- $187,000 in 2018 for planning and $1.638-million in 2019 for safety upgrades at the shooting range (project D-48);
- $149,000 in 2018 and $72,000 in 2019 to put up fencing, take care forestry and replace two vertical turbine pumps at the Henderson Lake golf club (project D-49);
- $375,000 in 2018 to review previous studies, $6.2-million in 2021 for a detailed design and remaining $62-million construction costs in 2022 for the proposed performing arts centre (project D-50), amended to create a steering committee with three Council members in order to develop a business plan and that the city manager come up with a funding strategy; and
- $1.1-million in 2018 for detailed design and other “shovel ready” documents, $59.8-million in “shadow funding” for Exhibition Park trade, convention centre construction in 2022 and $16-million in “shadow funding” for Agriplex construction in 2026.
The performing arts centre (project D-50) was the most hotly contested Friday (May 19) afternoon, with tempers coming to a boiling point near the end of the more than 30-minute long discussion. It started when Councillor Joe Mauro walked over to Councillor Iwaskiw during Councillor Jeff Carlson’s final debate, in order to ask a question for clarification. Carlson made a snap comment that Mauro wasn’t paying attention, and called for the vote. Mauro was quick to rebut, asking Carlson “who made him the king of this show.”
Councillor Iwaskiw attempted to break the tension by calling for a short break for all of finance committee to meet upstairs. Mauro refused to leave council chambers, though, insisting that there was nothing left to talk about. After the situation seemed to be defused, Councillor Carlson apologized for the outburst, however Councillor Mauro didn’t seem to acknowledge the comments.
Another 9 projects were also defeated by finance committee during deliberations, including:
- $500,000 for a People Places Community Plan to report on the inventory, condition and gap analysis of Lethbridge’s public spaces (project D-23);
- $12.5-million for an Enmax Centre parking lot renewal (project D-24);
- $1.6-million worth of median trees along University Drive (project D-28);
- $425,000 multi-use sports court in the Fairmont neighbourhood (project D-30);
- $3.35-million bike escalators on the east and west sides of Whoop Up Drive (project D-33);
- $1.3-million to install four downtown gateways (project D-38);
- $1.9-million for several community gateways at Lethbridge’s major entrances (project D-39);
- $12.6-million for a 5 Street South reconstruction from 1 Avenue to 6 Avenue (project D-43); and
- $5-million for two multi-sport all weather fields (project D-44).
Councillor Iwaskiw sent off the final CIP meeting noting that this Council did all that they could to satisfy Lethbridge’s many wants and needs within a limited budget.
“Not everybody got everything they wanted, but I think we’re grown ups and we should be able to accept that. I think what matters most is that we did very well by the community.”
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