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St. Albert mayor welcomes $7.8 million in provincial support

The city was expecting to see some money for capital infrastructure projects, and Mayor Cathy Heron said was also "cautiously optimistic" of financial support to offset operating and public transit impacts due to COVID-19.
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St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said the $7.8 million in capital stimulus funds will go towards servicing Range Road 260 lands. HANNAH LAWSON/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert's mayor is welcoming news that the city will receive $7.8 million in capital stimulus funds to use for infrastructure, though it's not yet known how much more money the city will receive coming out of the provincial and federal initiative announced Tuesday.

The city was expecting to see some money for capital infrastructure projects, and Mayor Cathy Heron said she also remained "cautiously optimistic" of financial support to offset operating and public transit impacts due to COVID-19.

"I'm just so happy to have the money," Heron said.

"I was 50/50 – either they're going to do it or they're not going to do it. So I actually sent a text to our (Morinville-St. Albert) MLA Dale Nally thanking him for the allocations and really recognizing that the province of Alberta has done a great job in understanding the needs of municipalities."

On July 28, the provincial government announced it is providing financial support as part of the federal government's Safe Restart program. The province confirmed it will match the federal government's $296 million to municipalities to help with operational and transit supports. 

Of that combined $592 million, $452 million will be for operational support and $140 million for public transit. Transit supports will be allocated using a formula that considers ridership and projected losses, according to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA). 

This is on top of $500 million in additional funding to municipalities to build shovel-ready infrastructure projects starting in 2020 with the hopes of creating thousands of jobs at a time when Alberta's unemployment rate is close to 20 per cent.

Servicing rec lands

The biggest priority the city had for their list of 'shovel-ready' projects was the servicing of Range Road 260, the lands on the west side of Ray Gibbon Drive that have been designated as the site of a future rec centre, Heron said.

"It is a priority for us because it is not just infrastructure, it's economic stimulus. Once that servicing is done, not only will it create construction jobs, it will also create jobs south of there in the Lakeview Business District," she explained.   

The parcel, owned by Rohit Land Development, was selected by council to house a future recreation facility with the knowledge of the city's commitment to service the lands. That will cost the city around $20 million to do, Heron said.

"The City of St. Albert is committed to servicing Range Road 260 as part of the land deal we're doing with Rohit, so it's going to happen either way. This will speed up the servicing and really just help with our overall debt load."

The additional money for public transit was another aspect Heron said she was very happy to see.  

"'The losses have been bigger in municipalities that operate transit compared to counties and villages that have had no loss in operation. So they have recognized where the money was lost and where the expenses were increased, and they have supplied extra for us, so that's really good."

St. Albert Transit has lost approximately $140,000 per month from ticket sales, totalling $1.26 million, and $1.3 million in UPass revenue, according to the city. 

Heron said the city won't know the full economic impact of COVID-19 until at least late fall when the city's finance department provides another update. 

In June, council approved increasing the city's line of credit from $5 million to $20 million to address any potential shortfalls from the pandemic.

"We're hoping to avoid using that line of credit and we're hoping to not need to turn to the taxpayers to cover up any debt. But right now, it's too complicated," she said.

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about city hall, business, general news and features.
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