May 28th, 2017

Westside firehall included in CIP draft


By Villeneuve, Melissa on May 19, 2017.

Melissa Villeneuve

Lethbridge Herald

mvilleneuve@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge will not get its first ever Cycle Escalator alongside Whoop-Up Drive. The $3.35-million proposed project was tossed out of the draft 2018-27 Capital Improvement Program in a unanimous decision by Finance Committee during day four of deliberations Thursday.

What the residents of Lethbridge will receive is a new fire hall built on the westside, reconstruction of 3 Avenue South (4 Street to 8 Street), and some additional amenities in Legacy Park including a spray park, should the draft CIP be approved by council.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden was also included in the draft to construct a new $2.75-million community and programming facility, as was the Southern Alberta Art Gallery for $2.7 million in facility enhancements, including the addition of a park-oriented restaurant.

The CIP identifies required capital projects within the City of Lethbridge and provides a planning schedule and financing strategy. Council members are determining which projects should receive funding in the first four-year window of the 10-year plan.

A total of $284 million in unfunded community capital projects have been up for discussion over the past few days. They are all vying for a portion of the approximately $62.6 million available. Finance Committee made decisions on 18 of them on Thursday.

The item with the largest price tag to be funded in the next four years is the new Fire Station No. 5 in southwest Lethbridge. For $9.8 million, this would include the land, design and construction of the additional fire station and the purchase of necessary vehicles/equipment. It will be situated in the Waterbridge subdivision, on the corner of Macleod Drive.

The City of Lethbridge has operated with four fire stations since 1980, although the population has nearly doubled. During a Finance Committee meeting in January, Fire/EMS Chief Richard Hildebrand stressed the need for a new westside station, and the replacement of the 16 Ave South station, in order to continue meeting their service levels.

Both projects were needed to help maintain the city’s 10-minute response time standard and to ensure enough resources can be deployed in the event of a big fire, he explained.

Coun. Ryan Parker said he was most excited about this project because it is not a “want” but a “need” in the community. He noted the population in west Lethbridge was around 4,000 when the first west fire hall was built in 1980. Now it’s almost 40,000. Yet adding a fire station will serve the needs of the entire community as they share resources.

“It’s an issue of safety and it’s an issue of quality of life,” said Parker. Most council members agreed and the resolution was passed 8-1 to include it in the draft CIP.

The second proposed Fire/EMS project – $9.03 million for relocation of Fire Station No. 3, 16 Avenue South, and 911 backup – was approved, but amended to be pushed back four years to 2022.

Reconstruction of 3 Avenue South comes at a price tag of $9.03 million in 2018. It involves the creation of a detailed design, renewing underground infrastructure and replacing road surface, improving street right-of-way including wider sidewalks and landscaping, and improving multi-modal capabilities.

Council members voted 5-4 to include it in the draft CIP.

The ongoing Legacy Park project was approved for $6.6 million for additional amenities in the draft CIP. They include a spray park, children’s discovery playground, group picnic shelter, ornamental garden and more roads/parking, beginning in 2019. Some councillors did not support the request as they believed previous funds provided were more than adequate for amenities in the park. However the project passed by a vote of 5-4.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden’s project is to construct a new $2.75-million multi-purpose facility to provide public/private event and meeting space and improved exhibits outside the Garden.

Many council members noted the need for expansion and enhancement as it is a major attraction that draws thousands of visitors each year. Mayor Chris Spearman noted “it’s one of our jewels.” The project was included by a vote of 8-1.

With $2.7 million, the SAAG will add 350 square metres of space for a new Learning Commons area, expanded office space/common room, environmental storage space and loading dock. It will also create a park-oriented restaurant with an outdoor patio to be leased to a third party.

Spearman noted they had received 37 letters from the public and nine pages of signatures in support. The project was included by a vote of 8-1.

“The SAAG has a tremendous reputation across Canada as one of the premiere art galleries,” said Spearman, noting it draws many visitors to the downtown core. “The more vibrant SAAG is, the more reasons people come down there, visit and stay there, the better it is for all of downtown.”

There are still another three community projects to discuss today – the Shooting Sports Facility Safety Enhancement, Henderson Lake Golf Club upgrades and the Performing Arts Centre. However, any previous project can be brought back for discussion through an amendment.

Finance Committee deliberations are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today. All are welcome to attend or watch the deliberations live online at http://www.lethbridge.ca.

A draft version of the 2018-27 CIP is also available online. It is expected to come before council for final approval on Tuesday.

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