Last week + Regular Council Meeting October 28, 2019
I was out in Redwater this week for our regular Homeland Housing board meeting. We were able to tour the under-construction new wing of the seniors’ facility - it will provide much-needed rooms when it opens in the next few months!
AHS Vaping Presentation
Sometimes, I attend events where I’m wearing both my Mom and Councillor hats - this was one of those times. Thank you to WD Cuts for hosting the Alberta Heath Service presentation about teen vaping - it was an informative evening that helped me understand how little we really know about the effects of vaping, how “vapes” are changing the landscape of teenage nicotine addiction, and how little legislation is in place to restrict marketing aimed at teenagers.
Environmental Advisory Committee
The EAC met for their regular meeting; Council can expect our recommendations for the Environmental Initiatives Grant program in the next few weeks.
2020 Proposed Budget
Monday marks the start of the official portion of the 2020 budget deliberations.
“Administration is proposing an operating budget… which yields an overall average municipal property tax increase of 2.4 per cent. This consists of a 0.9 per cent increase to maintain current services, as well as a 1.5 per cent increase focusing on repairing, maintaining and/or replacing (RMR) existing municipal infrastructure… The proposed municipal capital budget of $93.5 million includes 29 capital charters (requests of funding for projects) focusing on RMR for existing municipal infrastructure, and 16 capital charters that address community growth… The proposed monthly utility bill will yield an average increase of 0.05 per cent or a change of $0.06 compared to last year.”
Highlights of the proposal:
Moving forward with a permanent snow storage site, which will cost $4M over the next three years, and will result in increased operating expenses of about $140,000/year after it opens in 2023.
Hire 10 EMS staff “to ensure service levels are adequate when Fire Station 4 is opened in 2023 and one Assistant Chief Medical Liaison position to ensure all duties related to Emergency
Medical Response have proper oversight. (Approx. $1.2M/year)
Make the Rental Assistance and Crisis Funds permanent services. (Originally, these were temporary programs made possible through one-time provincial funding. $60,000/year)
$14M for building the new Fire Station 1.
Redevelop/expand the Woodlands Skatepark. ($1.67M)
Traffic Calming strategies ($550,000/year)
Safe Journeys to School program ($445,000 in 2020, $400,000 in 2021, $335 in 2022, with the program ending in 2023 with $400,000)
VASA Funding ($16,000)
VASA, the arts collective operating out of the Hemingway building (the old downtown RCMP) has requested that we provide an additional $16,000 outside their $27,000 Outside Agency grant and the de-facto $106,000/year they’re saving because the city rents the building to them for $1/year.
This is an awkward motion because our citizen committee did not recommend this funding through our grant policies and VASA hasn’t been able to achieve charitable status since they became a not-for-profit in 2005. In 2012 when VASA was given tenancy of the city-owned Hemingway building, their proposal also said that they were sustainable because they were an "artist-run" centre, but this has changed in the last few years with the hiring of an executive director. The 2012 proposal also stated lease costs would be "entirely borne by the income generated from studio rentals" (currently 19 studios with 23 resident artists), that "all other programs... are evaluated for financial... feasibility", that "VASA has... funded its entire rental and studio associated costs by distributing these costs among the resident artists <and that> this will not change in the Hemingway Centre". I’m not sure what’s changed since then, but I’ll try to find out before we vote on this motion.
This is a brief and incomplete overview of our meetings, with my personal comments sprinkled in - In no way are my opinions representative of the official direction of council or the City of St. Albert. Please let me know of any typos or errors. As always, I also encourage everyone who is able to tune in the the live-stream of the meeting (3pm here) or attend in-person (3rd floor of St. Albert Place, hang a right getting out of the elevator). You can also register to speak if you have information to present to council. Full agenda packages can be found on the stalbert.ca website.