Last week + GPFC Meeting February 11, 2019
The renovated St. Albert Art Gallery opened! Council was joined by Minister Sohi, both our MLA’s, and my favourite 6-year-old for the official ribbon-cutting. It’s a beautiful new (old) space.
10-year capital plan
A few weeks ago, I posted about our plan to deal with our ballooning 10-year growth capital plan so that both Council and Administration can focus their energies on projects that have a chance of going forward within the decade. With a $300M+ capital deficit, we clearly cannot fund all the projects on this list without significant impacts to taxation and debt, so we’re knocking some off the list.
Projects that are currently on consent, which means that (so far) everyone agrees that they should be taken off the plan and it’s unlikely we’ll enter in discussions about them (92.1M):
Tennis Park ($1.6M): A new tennis court facility.
Outdoor Artificial Ice Arena Surface at Servus ($4.9M): This is a fancy version of the surface that we approved for 2019. My guess is that the removal of this project will be supported unanimously.
Servus Place Aquatic Expansion ($14.3M): Who wants two lanes and a teach pool added to Servus Place? No one, as far I can tell!
Flag Poles ($171,000): This is to put flag poles at every civic building, like the business centre downtown (the old CIBC).
Field House Indoor Sports field ($20M): This is to build a standalone feildhouse, like what we have at Servus. I don’t think we’d move forward on this as a standalone.
Eldorado Park Planning ($51,000): This project is outside of our standards for neighbourhood planning.
Power for North side of Children’s Bridge ($100,000): This is to bring power to the north side of the bridge, so we wouldn’t have to bring in generators for events like the Children’s Festival.
Projects that have been pulled off consent, so we’ll discuss them and vote on whether to keep them in the plan (106.7M):
Creative Hub ($11.8M) + Cultural Buildings ($4.8M): Like St. Albert Place and VASA, this would be a multi-tenant space with different arts-based opportunities.
DARP Project Prioritization ($100,000): This is to study our downtown plan and make recommendations.
Indoor Aquatic Facility ($38.1M): This is for a new facility like Fountain Park. Although a larger facility that also includes ice, fitness, field houses is my preference, I would consider supporting this project if the location and opportunities were appropriate.
Baseball Park ($3.7M): To build a second one, like the ones next to the waterpark. As far as I know, we wouldn’t be partnering with SAMBA for this and there is no land set aside.
Recreation Facility ($1.5M): This is for planning something, but we don’t know what. We voted it off the plan last year, so it seems to be a miscommunication that kept it on the list.
Oakmont Trail Phase 2 ($1.7M): To expand the Red Willow Trail system.
Public Parking Structure ($20,4M): This is for a giant cement parkade in the middle of downtown.
Art Gallery expansion ($410,000): I look forward to checking out the newly expanded St. Albert Art Gallery space this month, so I can’t see a second renovation taking priority over other cultural projects in the next ten years.
Museum expansion ($2.8M): This is for an expansion within St. Albert Place. With the Heritage Park project calling for museum space, this project would be a duplication of sorts.
St. Thomas St. Median Improvements ($3M): This is to remove the median and make the street more pedestrian-friendly.
Grandin Road Improvements ($2.3M): This is to make a small section of Grandin Rd more bikeable/walkable.
Facility Water and Energy Audits ($50,500): This is to study the impacts of our energy and water upgrades to see how well they worked and make recommendations for future projects. I will fight to keep this on the books!
Civic Square ($204,000): This is to turn the big downtown parking lot into a community space, kind of like Sir Winston Churchill Square in Edmonton. Although I don’t think the parking situation is ready for this project today, it might be within the decade.
Perron Street Improvements ($6M): This is to make Perron more walkable/bikeable and conducive to restaurant patios, etc.
St. Anne Street Pedestrian Improvements ($859,000): This is to make St. Anne more walkable/bikeable.
Tache Street Green Corridor ($2.7M): This will connect Grenier Park to Millennium Park to the river as a pedestrian access.
Solar Photovoltaics (PV) Program ($2M): This is to put solar panels on a couple more of our buildings, with a break-even for our investment in about 8 years.
Servus Place Fitness Expansion: ($6M): It’s full right now, but there are other options to expand services if we move forward with a new rec facility in the next decade.
(Maybe) Affordable & Accessible Housing Options ($100,000): This is a proposed reserve that we would add to every year to save for capital investment in affordable housing.
(Maybe) Urban Forest Canopy ($500,000): For tree planting, improving conditions, and research/making a plan for future forest growth.
Active transportation plan
Council is being presented with a report detailing a gap analysis having to do with active transportation - biking, walking, etc. - which can be used for ongoing transportation network planning. There is a comment in the agenda package that says that next steps include “ …implementation of the Development Strategy with funding requests (Charter ENGS:068)”. I don’t know what’s involved in this project charter, so I’ll be asking about it.
“The City of St. Albert… does not have a policy to govern how it deals with requests… for property tax relief. Such a policy would be beneficial, as it would provide a framework for both Council and property owners, as to what types of requests for property tax relief would be deemed reasonable and acceptable… the Municipal Government Act permits Council the discretion to cancel or reduce tax arrears, cancel or refund all or part of a tax, or defer the collection of a tax, for a particular taxable property…”
So that Admin has direction when dealing with these requests, they are recommending that we dust off an old policy that deals with tax relief. Essentially, Council would review requests individually at the end of every year should we chose to move forward with this policy . I have no idea how often Council receives this type of request or how other municipalities deal with this an as an option - I expect the discussion around the proposed policy to be interesting.
This is a brief high-level overview of highlights from our meeting agenda, 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.