October 21st, 2020

Operations depot plans raise concerns


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on December 24, 2019.

Barrie Orich

DIRECTOR, LETHBRIDGE TRANSPARENCY COUNCIL

In reviewing the City of Lethbridge’s Capital Improvement Program for 2018 to 2027, as a taxpayer I am concerned with the proposed West Lethbridge Operations Depot (Phase 3A and Phase 3B).

Phase 1 – (CIP 2011-2020 D-22). The first phase of the West Depot was approved for construction in 2011 and included the construction of a snow dump site, snow dump settling pond, fuel depot and site access intersection improvements from University Drive.

Phase 2 – 2017 and 2018 (CIP 2014-2023 D-29). This phase includes the construction of a sand/salt storage facility, an onsite storm water management facility and related infrastructure. The sand/salt building will be sized at approximately 25 metres x 50 metres (82 feet x 164 feet).

Phase 3A – 2021 and 2022 ($7.8 million) will involve the construction of an equipment fleet storage and maintenance space as well as a material storage area and site improvements (parking lot and landscaping).

Phase 3B – future ($7.4 million) will involve the addition of administration office space and will also include full site servicing. The timing of this phase is contingent on the pace of development in west Lethbridge. Description and Location Purpose and Justification Phase 3A addresses Public Operations requirements for additional depot space (fleet building, material storage and parking for vehicles and equipment). Phase 3B addresses Public Operations requirements for an administration building including an office, lunchroom and washroom facilities.

Costs – Shareable Construction: Funding Utility Capital Project for Phase 3A timing 2021; Cost $3,986,000 and in 2022 costs $3,850,000 for a total of $7,836,000

To me, Phase 1 and 2 look like good and worthwhile projects. Where I get concerned is the almost $15.2-million project for Phase 3A and 3B. These two phases could be adding substantial numbers of employees and operating cost to a city that is already overburdened with demands on taxpayers. The plan will add more administration, fleet maintenance/mechanics and supervisors. Does the City need any more of these positions? Keep in mind the $15,200,000 is just for construction and does not pay for operations.

What really upsets me as a taxpayer and homeowner is how the City administration/council plans on paying for the construction of Phase 3A. Through what they call Utility Capital, which means they will increase your utility bills to pay for Phase 3A, not sure how they plan on paying for Phase 3B. This project appears to have little or no benefit to the City utilities; electrical, water/sewer or garbage collection/recycling. So why are utilities paying for it?

The simple answer is to tax you by another means, by moving the cost within your utility bill rather than justifying higher property taxes, which everyone pay attention, too. As a City employee once told me, it is easier to raise utility rates than raise taxes. The taxpayers of Lethbridge should also be reminded that the City just built a massive and expensive fleet building ($35 million) on the northside. We as a group, will continue to look for opportunities and seek transparency in our city.

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George McCrea

Barry: This is same playbook that the late elected council member Bob Babki was reporting on. Using the administration fees and other related fees on utility bills to utilize as a cash on hand. For example my current administration fee on the utility bill is 7.00. Multiply that by 40 k residences and voila there’s 280k a month or 3.36 million a year. Certainly not chump change. In addition costs devoted to waste are currently 19.20/month where last year (February) they were in the 11.00 range. So 8 times 40K is 320k times 12 and low and behold another 3.84 million a years. Thereby approximately 7.2 million is being extracted from the taxpayers who appear to be completely complacent and happy that their property taxes only went up 2% or so. Try and find where this 7.2 million collected off utility bills goes. Note there is no reference to fees collected from industrial, commercial and construction.

snowman

A great letter Barrie but, you would have to determine a utility and user fees and tax ,users fees must go to a account taken for the Public Purpose if they are deposited in a general account they are a tax.
For example the $7.00 added to your waste collection billing what was the Public Purpose of the $7.00.was it for waste collection does not state for residential curbside recycling collection. Is it lawful for the City to take $7.00 without stating the specific public purpose? The City states the $ 7.00 per month includes the cost of constructing the MRF yet billing is for waste collection, total misappropriation of funds. The MRF is paid for by a borrowing of $16 million charged to property tax. You could look to the $80 million reserve account or the MRSR Account for funding of waste operations depot. One thing it tells you the City has too many vehicles collected, they have kicked the school buses outside of storage.

George McCrea

Kicked school buses outside for storage. Another
convoluted unqualified baseless rant from the snowman.
A quick call to the transit manager would clarify your
Kicked outside for storage comment. You’re mindless
Ken, as school bussing has nothing to do with the letter.
Just a cheap back door shot at me as a school bus driver
and commenter in this letter.

snowman

George: I would ask did you file a complaint with the City for refund of your $7.00.The public purpose of the $7.00 dollar was not specifically stated by Waste administration they now call it a $ 7.00 “Enhancement Fee” but are billing it as Waste Collection not as the intent(Public Purpose) for waste collection (Black cart )or Residential Curbside Recycle Collection (Blue cart). The City document states the fee includes the cost of constructing the MRF. I have filed a claim for total refund of the $7.00 fee. We are in a continuing conversation with the city on the term “7.00 Enhancement fee” and the public purpose of the fee is it a user fee or tax the responsibility of City Council on approving inappropriate user fees which is in their jurisdiction.
Ken Ikle
Spokesperson for
Committee Residential Utilities(Lethbridge)

Fescue

Always good to hear from the unelected tribunal for transparency (revealing data already transparently available on the City website), and for judging what our tax money should be spent on (as opposed to the people we have elected to do so, with all of the information available to them – both costs AND benefits).

Tris Pargeter

Ah, the voice of reason Fescue. Appreciated.
Humour is always allied with a sense of proportion….

snowman

George I appreciate your kind words read what I stated again before you jump over the cliff
when you see all the busses parked and in the cold you have to start them you will apologize.
I will inform you I am not mindless I have been tested, have you.