Happy New Year!
It may seem late to start with new year wishes, but the new Lunar year has just begun, and regardless of the timing, I think that a new year brings an important opportunity for reflection and connection. I hope your new year is off to a great start and that you had a fulfilling holiday season. It's been a busy few weeks since I took some holidays, but I'm feeling energized by great weather, many challenges to work on, and lots of great conversations with Ward 2 neighbours.
You may have noticed that this newsletter is going out on a different day than usual. That's because City Council (and committee) meeting schedules have changed. They are no longer on Mondays and are on Wednesdays & Tuesdays instead. I'll continue to aim to have the newsletter out a day or two before Council Meetings so that you get a preview of issues being discussed. As always, I'll read anything you send me ahead of the meetings too!
The last month has been a real challenge for our Roadways operations. This has been our first time using the Roadways Emergency Response Plan that we created after the big snowfall in November 2020. I'm really glad that we had a plan to follow this time, and while the last step (removing cleared snow) is still underway, the response has gone smoothly and very much according to the plan (summary here). Removal is in progress in Caswell Hill, Montgomery Place and Westmount. Riversdale is complete. Next up is King George. Finally, Pleasant Hill, and then Holiday Park and Meadowgreen will see snow removed in phases 3 and 4. Once the 6 phases of removal are complete across the city, that will mark the end of this response.
The next challenge is to ensure we've got a reasonable way to pay for this response, but also a system for funding future responses at this scale. Snow responses of this scale are not anticipated every year so they are not fully covered in our annual snow budget. [For context: prior to 2020, we had not seen a snowfall that needed this level of response since 2007]. We estimate the city-wide clearing that was initiated in response to the snow that accumulated between Dec 25 and 28th to cost approximately $20M. Council has acknowledged that we'll need to borrow funds to cover that for now and we will be further debating options for covering that both this week and likely again before the next budget debate. The primary options are to reduce future capital plans (investment in infrastructure, etc.) and/or plan for a property tax phase in. This phase in could be offset by reductions in other costs and can't be fully decided until the 2024 budget is on the table and debated. Regardless of the path chosen, no changes can or will be made to the 2023 budget/property tax. I feel strongly we need to not only find a sustainable way to fund this winter's city-wide Emergency Response clearing, but also set up a process for saving for future winters when this scale of response will be needed. The best available information says this will not be as frequent as the last couple of years, and I sincerely hope that's the case. Either way, we need to start saving. Full details on the funding options are at the Council meeting here and recap PSA here.
Engagement & Updates - Ward 2
To see all projects open for engagement visit www.saskatoon.ca/engage
Industrial Interface Study
We need to hear from you! The survey for this project is open until January 31st. Please consider filling it out and sending to a Ward 2 neighbour who may be impacted by industrial activity and nuisance nearby.
Project page with survey here.
There’s some work underway to improve the safe Active Transportation connections near CP Rail tracks. In addition to the West Central Multi-Use Corridor, the Transportation team is working with CP to get a design agreed on for a pedestrian crossing at 19th Street and Ave N near St. Mary's Wellness and Education Center. This is exciting progress and something that was initiated by neighbours in the area who walk their kids to the school. Once a design is finalized, the project will still need to be funded, but the ball is rolling and I hope to see this project come to life. The report that went to Transportation committee can be reviewed at item 8.3.2 here.
A reminder to anyone who uses Harry Bailey Leisure Center - the facility will be closing on March 31st for 18-24 months of renovations. I know many Ward 2 residents will miss that access over the next couple of years, but I'm excited about the upgrades and improvements that we can expect at the end!
Decisions - upcoming
Snow response funding
See above section 'Got Snow' for info about funding the emergency-level snow response this winter and into the future.
Downtown Entertainment & Event District (DEED) - Private operating partner
As the project team continues the development of a funding plan for the Downtown Entertainment and Event District (DEED) another detail is up for discussion (item 8.5.1).
Council is being asked to give direction on the future operating arrangement of the major facilities in the DEED (Arena and Convention Center) in order to be able to start investigating who a private partner might be if that's the model. Ultimately, we need to know whether a private partner would bring capital funding for the project to the table. As I've shared before, ultimate approval or rejection of the project overall will hinge on a feasible funding strategy for the project as a whole. A contribution from a private partner is likely key to any successful funding strategy that would minimize property tax contribution, which is a priority that has been set by Council. While I see drawbacks in private operating partnerships and have heard concerns raised, it seems an option that may need to be explored further in the overall context of the potential project. It is also the trend in the industry. I look forward to further discussion, and will be focusing on setting the principles and parameters for a future contract if this model is chosen and ultimately goes ahead. I believe there is a lot of public benefit that can be created and prioritized in the overall project planning and execution of a district. The principles we'll set are key, and you'll be invited to weigh in on the district planning that will bring those to life very soon.
Council will be deciding on which tool to add to our overall budget process: a Carbon Budget or a Climate Budget. Either way, addition of such a tool will help us to more fully integrate our climate commitments into our budgeting process and track any investment gaps that are keeping us from reaching our climate targets. This is important work and I know I will find it helpful in future budget processes. More at item 8.3.1.
Zoning Bylaw - amendment package 5
The City's Planning department has been working to update the Zoning Bylaw and are bringing forward the 5th package of proposed amendments this month. Amendment proposals include changes to accessible parking standards, definitions for home-based businesses, and some details around short term rentals, among others. Details in the public hearing package.
Project funding applications
The Administration is proposing that we put forward a few exciting upgrade projects for funding from the Federal Government. The projects are White Buffalo Youth Lodge, Archibald Arena, the Civic Conservatory, and some buildings at the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Details at 10.5.2.
Community Events & Reminders
Family Day Skate - mark your calendars for a free skate at the indoor rink and some other activities outdoors at Cosmo Civic Center from 1-4pm on Feb 20th!
Lighting up Downtown - have you seen the awesome new light installations with the 21st Street Back alley project?
Carbon Monoxide - the Saskatoon Fire Department reminds you to check intake pipes and exhaust vents to prevent carbon monoxide buildup
Property Tax Appeal Period - the annual appeal period is open until Feb 3. Details here.
Transit updates - Saskatoon Transit has upgraded how it provides updates to riders on the app and website.
City Council | January 25th (Wednesday)
City Council meets on Wednesday. Brief highlights are outlined below. Click here to find the full agenda. Council continues to meet virtually. Correspondence on Council items can be made in writing or as a request to speak (accommodated by phone or in person). Meetings will continue to be live streamed.
Regular Business Meeting | 9:30 AM
- Energy Retrofit study funding - FCM
- Long Term Water Treatment - funding plan
- Carbon/Climate Budget - options
- Airport Commercial Curb Fee - taxis
- Reports: Civic Naming, Marr Resident
- Public Artworks - donated
- Capital Grants - Arts
- Pleasant Hill Rink - municipal project
- Scattering of Cremated Remains
- Land lease for non-profits - info
- Funding or VIDO (Vaccine/Infectious Disease)
- Travel/training policy updates
- Property Realized Reserve withdrawal
- Neault Rd. Land acquisition
- Recovery Park - investment policy exemption
- Downtown Event & Entertainment District - Private operating partner
- Appointments - SEAC, P4G District Planning, General Superannuation Trustees
- 2nd Ave Redesign exploration near new Library
- Roadways Emergency Response 2022 - funding plan
- Draft changes to the Local Government Elections Act (SK)
- Harry Bailey - funds transfer
- Funding submission - Green & Inclusive buildings
- White Buffalo, Civic Conservatory, Archibald Arena, Zoo buildings
Public Hearing Meeting | 6:00 PM
- Zoning Bylaw - Package 5 of comprehensive amendments
- Heritage designation - Tees & Persse building
- Proclamations & Flag Raisings
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