June 18th, 2024

Parks department could add 10 seasonal positions

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 17, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The thorny issue of parks maintenance was addressed Wednesday by city council acting as the Economic Standing Policy Committee during deliberations on the 2023-’26 city budget.

The SPC passed by an 8-1 vote to move along the budget process an initiative to hire 10 non-permanent staff to meet existing service levels.

The staff will be seasonal, the SPC was told.

City manager Lloyd Brierley told the SPC there were “critical failures” in parks after the Parks and Cemeteries budget was cut in 2021 with the City not being able to maintain basic services.

Brierley pointed to graphs that shows Lethbridge has 29.1 hectares of parkland per 1,000 citizens, which is considerably higher than the peer group and median averages of seven hectares per 1,000 residents.

The cost of maintaining those parklands here is $3,469 per hectare which is below the median of $5,215 per hectare.

Lethbridge is one of the most efficient cities in the country, Brierley said, in terms of the cost of maintaining its parklands.

“This is about as good as it gets,” Brierley said.

The motion approved by the SPC calls for the creation of the 10 positions to meet existing service levels in 2023 and 2024 with funding for the remaining two years of the budget cycle to be contingent on a review with a report back to council through its Civic Works Standing Policy Committee after 2023 and 2024.

If this initiative gets through the entire budget process, it will cost taxpayers $613,200 in 2023, $629,300 in 2024, $647,300 in 2025 and $669,100 in 2026.

The initiative in the draft budget states that maintaining service levels will be more challenging with the addition of 18 hectares of new parkland over the next four years.

Councillor John Middleton-Hope told the SPC a large segment of the city population has asked for more park maintenance.

Councillor Jeff Carlson said he would have been amenable to a lesser initiative but called the hirings “more of a want than a need at this time.”

Deputy mayor Ryan Parker said council made a mistake with the cuts to parks and council heard from residents the following year what they thought about parks maintenance.

Acting mayor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel said she was supporting the initiative because of the review element contained in the motion.

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