By Jensen, Randy on October 23, 2020.
City council is set to approve a reduction in busing service in Lethbridge with ridership down substantially this year as many local university and college students are doing distance learning instead of in-class learning due to COVID-19.
According to Transit officials regular transit ridership is down nearly 70 per cent this year and Access-A-Ride is also down by about 58 per cent. By reducing service on regular transit to make bus service hourly in off-peak hours, it is hoped the City can reduce bus service by 345 hours per week and Access-A-Ride by 200 hours a week, thereby generating about $1.4 million in combined cost savings scaled over a 52-week period.
It would also take about 30-40 days to implement these changes, council was told during Monday’s public meeting, and would impact about 30 per cent of Transit riders.
Council deferred decision on the matter until the Nov. 2 meeting to allow more time for community feedback on the proposed changes.
Council to consider $4M in tax incentives
City council, acting on recommendations by the Lethbridge Community and Economic Recovery Committee, is proposing to hand out about $4 million in tax incentives to help local developers weather the current economic downturn in Lethbridge.
Under the proposed allotments, funds from the Affordable/Social Housing Capital Grant would continue to make $1.43 million available to developers for that purpose. About $900,000 would be retained for the Urban Core Improvement Grant, about $685,000 would be transferred from the Downtown Development Reserve to the Urban Core Housing Incentive program, and an additional $1 million would be made available to fund the Modified Targeted Redevelopment Incentive Program.
Council has deferred final decision on the matter until the Nov. 2 public meeting.
Motion to halt consideration of new projects defeated
City council defeated a motion by Coun. Ryan Parker which would have stopped all council consideration of any new potential community facilities or capital projects brought forward by community groups until at least 2025. Parker felt the motion would send a strong message to community members that, in his words, “the bank of Lethbridge has run dry.”
He said this did not preclude projects being brought forward for council consideration before that time if new federal or provincial funding became available, or for those which have existing provincial or federal funding. He pointed out Lethbridge had spent nearly $500 million on new facilities over the past decade, and felt council should be focusing on maintaining what it has rather than undertaking any new spending during this CIP cycle on “passion” projects brought forth by community members.
Councillors Jeff Carlson and Mark Campbell both responded to Parker by stating given the current situation the City was in, with fewer prospects for federal or provincial grant funding, it is obvious a lot of belt-tightening was in order but, they said, there was no harm in council hearing capital project proposals from community members. Hearing them out, they said, did not in any way, shape or form obligate council to fund these projects.
Council voted 6-3 to reject Parker’s motion. Councillors Parker, Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro voted in favour.
Council to send letter of concern over coal mine
City council voted unanimously during Monday’s meeting to send a letter of concern over the proposed Grassy Mountain coal mine to the Joint Review Panel public hearing on Oct. 27. While expressing neither support nor opposition to the mine per se, the motion, co-sponsored by Councillors Belinda Crowson and Rob Miyashiro, would ask for strong reassurances from the province and federal government, if the mine were approved, that there would be intensive mitigation plans put in place offset the risks of long-term selenium contamination within the Oldman River headwaters, and therefore in the water supply of communities downstream of those headwaters like Lethbridge which rely on them for drinking water, food processing and irrigation.
Council referenced in its decision information provided by the Oldman Watershed Council, which is also expressing similar contamination concerns at the Joint Review Panel on behalf of local shareholders, including local communities and those who are part of the local agriculture and food processing industries, who rely on water from the river for their drinking water and the ongoing success of their commercial enterprises.
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