By Lethbridge Herald on July 17, 2020.
Wash your hands, practise physical distancing, limit gatherings and wear a mask when social distancing can’t be maintained – you have heard these words many, many times during the past several months. And you will for the foreseeable future, as well.
The prevailing message is that COVID-19 is still here and we all need to do our parts to ensure the pandemic does not have a further impact in our city and region. Please, Lethbridge, follow the public health orders so we can all remain safe.
On Monday, city council received the full phase two of KPMG’s operational review which looks at nine City business units to identify potential areas of opportunity for efficiencies, cost improvement, innovation and reinvestment.
We are now 18 months into this three-year operational review process, which has been designed to keep an on-going focus on monitoring and reducing expenses as well as to look for efficiencies.
KPMG’s phase two, undertaken between December 2019 and May 2020, takes a further in-depth look at opportunities for service changes in the community, plus internal structure changes and areas for cost savings while considering the impact of COVID-19 on City operations. The review also offers comparisons from other municipalities and takes into account the expertise of the KPMG team and input from city council, staff and stakeholders.
The review and reports will help us make more informed budgeting decisions going forward, which will have a significant impact on how we recover from COVID-19. Between the two phases of the operational review thus far, there are close to 90 opportunities to explore.
Phase two provides key findings and opportunities related to Water and Wastewater, Electric Utility, Utility Services, Waste and Recycling, Transportation, Infrastructure Administration, Parks, Fleet Services and the Galt Museum.
City council has directed City Manager Craig Dalton to look at opportunities in both phases and come back with an implementation plan by Aug. 10. We look forward to seeing that plan and continuing to make changes that will help build financial flexibility for the City.
The full phase-two report can be found at https://www.lethbridge.ca/
The areas of focus for phase three are currently being confirmed and the next report is expected to be complete by November 2020. At that time, we will also proceed into a full City budget review with the possibility of looking at overall reductions of five per cent or 10 per cent.
Also on Monday, city council unanimously approved implementation of the Mobility/Accessibility Master Plan. This is a long-term strategy focused on creating a community in which everyone, regardless of age or ability, can participate and feel included.
Through community engagement on how to create better access to City-run facilities and services, this plan is part of the City’s goal to be inclusive and improve the lives of its residents. It also provides guidance when it comes to optimizing infrastructure that allows for equal access to programs and services for those with physical, sensory and cognitive challenges.
For those who have been patiently waiting for an update on Lethbridge Transit, I am happy to announce that Aug. 4 is the target date for returning to regular routes and fares. More details and specifics will be announced this morning, so please check our website for the latest information.
Keeping with positive news, Stan Siwik Pool and the ice arenas at ATB Centre opened on July 11 with Westminster Pool and Henderson Pool set to reopen this weekend.
Westminster Pool, which is operated by the Westminster Community Association, will open on Saturday. Pre-registration is not required but there are limits to the number of visitors in the pool. Henderson Pool will reopen on Sunday.
Visitors are strongly encouraged to read the new guidelines (www.aquatics.lethbridge.ca) before visiting. At Stan Siwik Pool and Henderson Pool, there are two significant changes:
– All visitors must pre-book their swim time at least one hour before your visit. Online registration at aquatics.lethbridge.ca is strongly encouraged but visitors without access to internet can call the pool directly to book.
– All visitors must be prepared to enter and leave the facility in their swimming clothes as the change rooms must remain closed due to public health guidelines.
Additional details about each facility can be found at http://www.lethbridge.ca/pools.
At this time, all other facilities remain closed. We appreciate the continued patience of our residents and we continue to assess and understand demand – while balancing public health guidelines – as part of our phased approach to reopening.
To reiterate: we are still in the COVID-19 pandemic where protocols and public health orders need to still be followed.
As Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said this week: “This pandemic has been a long haul and I worry that Albertans may be starting to tune the message out. It can seem like old news and many are tired of hearing this information.”
So, please, Lethbridge, listen to the advice and let’s keep our number of cases low. We are thankful of efforts to date, but we also ask all residents to continue to remain vigilant with respect to physical distancing, washing hands, personal hygiene, wearing masks and limiting our gatherings.
To end this month, I would like to send a big thank you to our crews who have been working this summer on improving our infrastructure. Road work is most frequently seen, but there is plenty of other work happening as well.
We thank all those involved and thank our residents for being patient and exercising caution in our work areas.
Chris Spearman is the mayor of Lethbridge. His column appears monthly.