By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on December 24, 2019.
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.