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Facility report postponed until 2021

City council won’t get a long-term look at the city’s facility needs until the beginning of 2021.
St. Albert Place is shown in this photo. A threatening email from a councillor to a staff member has sparked a controversy at city hall.
City councillors have signed off on creating a seniors advisory committee.

City council won’t get a long-term look at the city’s facility needs until the beginning of 2021.

On Monday, councillors agreed unanimously to postpone a facility growth report until one year after the city finishes revising its municipal development plan (MDP), expected to occur in 2020. Due to the wording of the motion, if the MDP rewrite wraps up sooner or later than expected, the facility growth report date could change as well.

Mayor Cathy Heron told the Gazette council should still be able to look at addressing shorter-term facility needs when budget season rolls around in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“I think I’ve been very vocal that I want to build something this term, or at least get a shovel in the ground, and (city manager Kevin Scoble) knows that. This council doesn’t want to wait any longer,” she said.

“I don’t think the delay in this report prevents us from discussing putting something into the capital plan for 2019.”

Council documents say the previous city council ordered the growth report in July 2017. On Dec. 18, councillors agreed to an initial three-month delay, pushing the report to the third quarter of 2018. They would still receive a report outlining short- to mid-term options for facilities, which came forward June 25.

A Dec. 18 report from city staff to council described the long-term growth report as including funding strategies, operating models and land requirements for the city's future facility needs.

“This report was really looking at a high-level, broader strategy on facility development, but we still need to address the current lack of capacity (for) swimming, ice, that sort of thing,” Heron said.

Monday’s administrative report on the delay notes the MDP is one of several documents that will help the city create its framework.

The administrative report states the intent of the delay is so city staff can provide council with a framework that can be used in the future, without requiring immediate changes once the MDP is revised.

Heron said the level of public consultation expected to go into the MDP rewrite would also help to inform facility development.

“The MDP will address best locations for growth. What then follows (is) best locations for facilities and recreation,” she said.

“It’ll address strategies, it’ll address policies on whether we want to work with school boards or work with not-for-profits like Active Communities, stuff like that.”

In June, council approved a non-binding agreement with Active Communities Alberta to provide conditional funding for a multi-sport facility.

The city’s short-term facility needs can be considered because many of the potential facilities – particularly an ice rink and aquatic space – have potential locations attached to them.

“If we like the short-term (option) that’s in front of us – for example, building onto Servus Place for both the ice and the pool – then we can go ahead now,” Heron said.

“If we feel in our hearts that’s not the right place for a pool or ice, then we would have to throw it into the long-term (report) because we don’t have serviced land.”

Delay passes on consent

Council passed the delay on their consent agenda, meaning it was approved without questions, discussion or debate.

That diverged from their reaction in December to the initial delay, when some councillors expressed concern. The initial delay occurred prior to the city developing its short- and mid-term report.

At that time, although the vote to delay was unanimous, Heron and Coun. Natalie Joly both called the delay "frustrating."

Joly had added that having the report come forward as soon as possible after the short- to mid-term report would help council make decisions during budget.

Heron said at the time that many people in St. Albert were waiting for the report and there was a lot of pressure to solve the city's facility needs.

On Tuesday, Heron said during the December decision she didn’t want to push off short-term discussions because of the long-term report’s delay.

Capital plan review still on the books

Heron said postponing the facility report won’t impact a potential review of the city’s 10-year capital plan, which council has talked about paring down. Last year, city manager Kevin Scoble warned council the city still faces a wide gap in funding for the 10-year plan.

Heron said the long-term facility report is just a small piece of the capital planning process and only looks at recreation needs, whereas the 10-year plan covers a breadth of other capital needs and wants.

“It won't be delayed – we have to go through that,” she said of the 10-year plan, adding there is currently no timeline for the review.

April Hudson

About the Author: April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette
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