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The makings of the city's surplus
A breakdown of projects and other items scrapped by council for 2015 budget

Randi Beers
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 19, 2014

Not one municipal department survived this year's city budget cuts unscathed as city council paged its way through the 400-page budget document, sniffing out disposable projects last week.

Project cuts by department

  • Number of projects cut: 1
  • Dollar amount cut: $15,600
Communications and Economic Development
  • Number of projects cut: 1
  • Number of projects reduced: 1
  • Dollar amount cut: $97,800
Corporate Services
  • Number of projects cut: 3
  • Number of projects reduced: 12
  • Dollar amount cut: $148,700
Community Services
  • Number of projects cut: 2
  • Dollar amount cut: $90,000
Public Safety
    Number of projects cut: 3 Dollar amount cut: $151,000
Planning and Development
  • Number of projects reduced: 2
  • Dollar amount cut: $400,000
Public Works and Engineering
  • Number of projects cut: 2
  • Number of projects reduced: 3
  • Dollar amount cut: $1,214,120

In a lengthy deliberation process that took an excess of 20 hours to debate over the course of seven nights, council managed to cut $2.1 million from the budget, far surpassing the $767,275 they needed to avoid a tax increase.

It was open season on projects councillors deemed unnecessary, one of the easier targets being a $20,000 multi-purpose remote control to regulate lights, blinds, the sound system and thermostat for council chambers from a single touch pad.

Coun. Niels Konge wanted to know if he could have control of the touch pad during a question and answer session Dec. 1, causing Mayor Mark Heyck to reply emphatically he would not.

"Well, the fan drives me crazy because I can't hear anything so I wish I could shut it off," said Konge.

The remote control system was later cut from the budget without debate.

One of the biggest cuts was $550,000 from a 50 Street paving project between 51 and 52 Avenue. At the request of council, Public Works director Chris Greencorn assembled a pared down version of the $1.25 million project, which would limit it to repaving, widening sidewalks, adding "decent" lighting but no trees for $700,000.

Coun. Linda Bussey spoke in favour of the motion with one caveat.

"I'd like to know if there is a way we could include, for a minimum cost, a few benches," she said.

"I don't need trees, no coloured concrete, but benches are a safety issue."

Mayor Mark Heyck spoke up at that point, saying "we might just have one or two in storage," in reference to the controversial removal of two benches from the post office this summer.

The benches had become a hot issue because some residents reported people who used them were harassing passersby. Denendeh Investments, the owner of the building, ultimately requested the city remove the benches.

Greencorn said he would try to include a couple benches in the design.

"Just to be complete, I'll have to look at the right-of-way to see if there is room for benches on the sidewalk," he said.

A number of city hall tech projects were also cut. Network upgrades, a server replacement, city website enhancements and a geographic information system to capture and manage geographic data online were all reduced by 20 per cent, saving the city $88,700.

Another plan, concocted by the Department of Public Safety, to spend $92,000 on new parking meters in tandem with a $26,000 electronic multi-space parking machine parking project was shot down.

The multi-space parking machine would have been able to accept credit and debit payments and would have required its own electricity and heat source.

Coun. Rebecca Alty proposed to delete the multi-space parking machine, saying it's not a good time to embark on a pilot project for a new type of parking meter while rolling out the planned meter expansion project.

"I don't think this is a good item to have before purchasing new parking meters, I don't think it's the right time and I think there is a lot going against this project," she said, before councillors voted unanimously to strike it down.

The Department of Public Safety also will not be replacing seven-year-old radar equipment for bylaw officers and lost a planned $110,000 assessment of emergency services delivery, saving $130,000 altogether.

While a total of 30 projects were either cut or reduced, council did add some money back into the budget. The day shelter will continue to see a $50,000 city contribution, the homelessness co-ordinator will remain a full-time position despite a planned reduction to part time, costing an extra $43,360 and city hall will begin webcasting Municipal Services Committee meetings in the new year, for a fee of $13,000.

Through the budget adjustments, council was able to avoid a property tax increase and reduced planned user fee increases by half.

The budget passed at a special council meeting Monday night with only Konge opposed.

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