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City budget meetings off to a slow but dynamic start
The half a dozen people showing up for the first in a series of city public budget meetings, held Thursday, Sept. 12, joined city council and staff in one group discussion, offering suggestions and criticisms.
Resident feedback offered at the meeting ranged from encouraging the city to demand more money from the federal government, and to have shelf-ready projects so when the money comes the city is prepared. Residents also stressed the need for a bridge bringing traffic from the west side to the downtown core.
Long-time city watchdog, Elke Reiner criticized the original South Lakeside Drive improvement project for not including traffic lights for the intersection at Prosperity Way.
“That’s what you have an engineer for,” Reiner insisted.
“That project was in the making for a long time and it should have been there.”
Coun. Laurie Walters said the good news is it was caught, and the conduit will be put in regardless.
When Reiner asked if the money was set aside, Coun. Ivan Bonnell said a report still needs to be done.
“We need the report to substantiate signalization based on traffic volume,” Bonnell said.
Reiner and downtown business owners Jan Hermaston and Elaine Winslow said if city believes the next logical development is an expansion of the Westridge area then there needs to be a road coming down from that area to a bridge crossing into the downtown core.
“It would create a better flow,” Reiner said.
“We’ve been told we would have reach 500 people living up there before the Ministry of Transportation would even consider it,” Coun. Surinderpal Rathor said.
Reiner also pushed for a proactive assessment plan for replacement values for all of the city’s assets.
“I like that too,” Mayor Kerry Cook responded.
“Our CAO said we have about $250 million in assets. We have started with a very small road management plan, a very small plan for equipment, and for capital, but what you are looking for is an asset management plan for buildings, roads, equipment and everything.”
Walters added: “It’s $40 million alone in pavement.”
City chief administrative officer Darrel Garceau said it has only been in the last eight years the federal and provincial governments have acknowledged that municipalities have infrastructure problems.
“You have to think about it,” he said. “It’s not like your MPs live in some ivory tower. They live in communities, drive the roads, experience the potholes and the sidewalks, so it is really surprising that the federal government would not have recognized that.”
The next public budget meeting is Sept. 30.