Lethbridge City Council revisiting CIP projects for possible savings
The proposed Southern Alberta Art Gallery expansion fell victim to CIP funding cuts this week . Photo credit to Downtown Lethbridge BRZ.
City Council has decided to delay discussion about pulling three projects from its current Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
On Monday (Feb. 24), Council discussed whether it should hold off for a few weeks instead. Three projects including city pathway expansions, a new multi-purpose facility for Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, and a downtown performing arts centre were all deferred to future meetings.
Mayor Chris Spearman says funding is getting tighter from the province and that’s making things a lot more challenging. “If MSI funding continues to be reduced and money flowing to municipalities continues to be reduced, we are going to be making some difficult choices between tax increases and delaying projects”.
Council did however vote this week to discontinue funding for a proposed expansion of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG). That’s because the scope of the original project, which was in the current CIP, has changed. SAAG will now have to reapply to get back into the future Capital Improvement Plan.
City Council was actually supposed to vote on all four projects this week, but decided after some debate that three of the four will be deferred. The pathway expansions and Nikka Yuko facility were put off two weeks until Council’s next regular meeting on March 9th. The performing arts centre discussion was pushed off until June.
Mayor Spearman stated Monday the challenge going forward is as the finances of the province are under review, municipalities are not immune to that “and we have to respond. It’s really difficult to fully fund one project at the expense of others. We need to have a full and fair debate where all projects are given an equal opportunity.
The Mayor also indicated Council may have to look at its entire CIP process as a whole.
Suzanne Lint with the Allied Arts Council says the concern is that if these projects are shelved, it’ll be very difficult to get them back into the CIP down the road. “We understand the constraints and challenges facing City Council, but we are also disappointed to see we may lose some really wonderful initiatives for the community long-term”.
Any project dropped from the current four-year CIP could be resubmitted for consideration in the next Capital Improvement Program.