I hope that the beginning of summer is treating you well and that you're finding fun ways to enjoy our beautiful city with family and friends. There are a few fun ideas in the Community Updates section below so be sure to check them out. Jazz Fest is also around the corner! Setup is underway in Victoria Park and music starts on the 30th with several free days prior to the ticketed program. Read below for some info about what to expect if you live, work or travel nearby.
We're coming to the end of June - which marks both Pride month, and National Indigenous History Month. Flags were raised at civic square, and the City took part in recognizing these important months in several ways, including as a participant in the Pride Festival, and by participating in Community Indigenous People's Day celebrations and launching our new Reconciliation Visual Identity alongside partners. I hope you've taken a chance to reflect on the importance of both of these recognitions understanding that community is built on knowing one another, respecting one another, and supporting one another's dignity, inclusion, and wellbeing.
As you've likely heard, City Council has a big and complex task ahead of us as our city faces an unprecedented projected funding shortfall for our 2024 budget largely as a result of beyond-normal inflation, and the need to step our way into growth pressures. We've chosen a gradual and detailed approach to tackling this between now and September through special budget meetings. No final decisions are made until final budget deliberations in late November. Detailed study will take place through the summer and fall. Your input is crucial. More background below.
City Council meets on Wednesday June 28th at 9:30am. I've shared some highlights below along with updates on programs, projects, and planning. You'll find a full listing of what Council will be making decisions about this month along with instructions about how to engage with the Council meeting in the last section.
As you've likely heard, the City's 65 year-old greenhouse is unfit for full use at this time and will need to be decommissioned fully soon. For this season, plant material for programs such as the flower pot program and park plantings have been sourced from other greenhouses this season. A report is before Council to endorse a strategy of continuing outside sourcing for the interim while we explore a long term shared solution with partners potentially including the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the Food Bank, and/or Meewasin Valley Authority. I have heard from several of you about how important the high quality seasonal plantings are that have come from our greenhouse to you. I share that pride you have in these programs and am excited to see what we can come up with in partnership for the future.
Access to Public Washrooms
The need for improved access to public washrooms is becoming clearer and clearer. Not only is there opportunity to improve access to existing washrooms (considering extending the season of summer-only facilities by winterizing, improving physical accessibility, optimizing hours, etc.) but there is also an increasingly recorded high-traffic gap in access on the 20th Street corridor. A few reports came through committee this month with some on the Council agenda as well. Overall, city administration are committing to coordinated work with community partners to explore and figure out how to move forward improvements. We need to keep at this to close access gaps in areas where the impacts are the greatest for the dignity and safety of those without access.
As noted last month the cycling community is reeling following the death of Nathasha Fox, a local teacher and wrestler who was cycling with her kids near the UofS Campus. Councillor Block has brought forward a number of motions for consideration this month. They ask for options to make safety improvements at the site, and recognize that a safe south access to campus for those on bikes is long overdue. I expect lots of discussion and as encouraged by many who have written me so far, I plan to support not only what's already in the Active Transportation plan, but specific and urgent action on areas where there are known and documented safety issues such as at and around Wiggins/College.
A couple of major reports can be found in the public hearing package related to proposed Corridor Zoning Districts and a package of amendments to the zoning bylaw to generally update it, and provide new regulations around accessible parking requirements for development.
Budget pressures & process
As you've likely heard, the City is facing tremendous pressure on our 2024 budget as outlined in a report earlier this month. I want to clarify two things. First, the gap that has been identified is not a deficit (we are not 'in the hole' in relation to any past spending/budget years). Secondly, the numbers that were shared are the beginning of the conversation, and not the end. No numbers shared to date will be the final property tax impact required for 2024. Despite the opportunity for confusion, I think the advanced reporting that is being done this year is critical to having a transparent and inclusive budget process.
The pressures we're facing in 2024 and 2025 are largely related to inflation. Several areas of our work have seen over 30% inflation recently. The biggest example of this is that in order to do the same work we always budget to do in treating roads and sidewalks, we'd need an additional 10+ million dollars to do it. Further, Saskatoon Light & Power are facing 33% inflation, and the cost of a fire engine has grown by 60%.
These pressures mean that we have a lot of work to do in order to figure out what work we can reasonably defer, what the risks of deferring are, and where else we may need to reduce service levels. This is no easy task, and we will go business line by business line to figure it out.
We had the first of several special budget meetings this past week. Much of the meeting was required to clarify process and ensure we're all on the same page about next steps. In late July we'll consider a report on how we can respond to inflation, and what adjustments we may need to make to our plans to step our way into some future investments such as new fire hall and operations of transit in new neighbourhoods. At the same meeting we'll begin by considering the options tied to a few business lines. Much of this is already published. I encourage anyone interested to review the materials here.
As noted, we'll be considering big and smaller areas for deferral. At initial review, I do think it's reasonable and necessary to defer some roadways spending. Chasing inflation in this case is simply unsustainable right now. Another area that has been proposed for deferral is the phase-in of a snow and ice fund for payback of last season's snow response and future emergency snow responses. While the payback period can be extended, I am not comfortable with not starting a reserve, as I have heard clearly from many Ward 2 neighbours that we absolutely must begin budgeting for all snow years - including the really big ones. I am also wary of deferring investments into Saskatoon Fire and Emergency Management given the intense pressure that the social issues our community is facing puts on those teams. They are being called on to react and also coordinate supports and we need those teams to be properly resourced.
I'm committed to tackling this tough discussion and am keen to hear from you. I hope these initial thoughts have been helpful and welcome your feedback, ideas and suggestions now and as we move closer to final budget deliberations in late November.
To see all projects open for engagement visit www.saskatoon.ca/engage
Connecting Avenue C - phase 3 engagement
There are just a few days left to fill out the survey with your feedback on the recommended design. I've reviewed the design carefully and feel it is a good balance of the transportation and safety needs of all users and the variety of current roadway configurations. Avenue C is pretty unique in that it extends all the way from the River to well past Circle Drive North. This unique access opportunity is the reason for this project, and is worth considering carefully. Background and Survey here.
Due to population growth and distribution changes, the Ward boundaries need to be changed ahead of the next municipal and school board election in 2024. Ward 2 and Ward 7 are both outside of the allowable variance so will definitely see change. Changes could also impact other Wards. The independent Municipal Wards commission has produced several options for review and is seeking feedback.
Caswell Hill Bus Barns
Next steps are underway for the redevelopment of the Caswell Hill Bus Barns! The framework for the redevelopment of the North half (and sale to the developer from the City) has been outlined, and engagement has begun on the rezoning and land use changes needed to permit the proposed and future redevelopment. Take a look at the plans here. Renderings are available for the North half which will be redeveloped first. There will be a public information meeting later this summer - date tbd.
Jazz Fest @ Victoria Park
Jazz Fest is being hosted at Victoria Park June 30 - July 9. As far as I am aware, this will be the largest/longest festival in this park. I inquired about how the traffic and noise that the festival will generate is going to be handled so want to share a bit about what to expect if you live, work or travel nearby.
TRAFFIC - festival organizers are working to reduce traffic pressure by providing a shuttle service from Broadway and Downtown, by providing a bike valet, and by promoting the use of taxis, e-scooters, and walking to the site. Accessible parking and other accessible options are also planned for.
SOUND - in the evenings, amplified sound will end at 10:30pm. Most days do not begin before 3pm but on the longest days, gates will open at 10am and will be closed by 11pm.
All plans have been reviewed and approved by the City's special events team. The site will be monitored 24/7.
If you encounter issues, please reach out to the City's customer service by phone at 306-975-2476 so that issues can be relayed to event organizers for review, monitoring and resolution where warranted.
Staying safe in the heat
The City's Emergency Management Organization is sharing resources about how to beat the heat and stay safe. Additionally, community partners collaborate when extreme heat arrives for an extended period by distributing water, opening cooling locations, and more. Learn about beating the heat here.
E-Scooter Pilot Program
I've received a number of questions about whether the e-scooter use and parking that people may be seeing is as intended. There are a number of FAQs answered here, and if you have concern about dangerous riding or a scooter left near you (especially if it's signaling a problem or creating risk) please contact the related company or the City's customer service - contacts at link.
A huge Red Ball is rolling into town! Check out the release here to find out where you'll be able to catch sight of it! This project is supported by the City's Placemaker program in partnership with the Business Improvement Districts.
Construction & Detours
Wondering about the best route? Follow the City's communication channels for more major disruptions, or check out our construction page to learn about current and upcoming projects.
Insects bugging you?
The City is monitoring a variety of pests and has some updates to share.
The outdooor pools and spray pads/paddling pools are open and hopping! With new waterslides at Lathey and Riversdale pools there's lots of fun to get up to.
If your pooch is looking to take a dip, the dog days of summer is coming back to Mayfair pool August 22nd. Registration is open!
The Fire department is reminding residents to stay current with safety planning and best practices before engaging on and around the River.
City Council | June 28th (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
- Green Municipal Fund - nitrification expansion
- Recovery Park - program update & fee structure
- Saskatoon Fire - strategic plan
- Trunk Radio Infrastructure replacement funds
- Fusion Implementation update
- Fueling infrastructure - plan and funding
- Taxi Fare review
- e-Permitting for business licenses
- Greenhouse operating model
- Public Washroom navigator reallocation
- Access to public washrooms
- Recreation and Community Development - annual report
- Naming agreement renewal - Shaw
- Cemetery bylaw rewrite
- Land acquisition - Neault Road
- Land sale - SaskEnergy
- Funding applications: Green space & extreme heat, flood control
- Land acquisition - Usask Riverbank/College Dr
- Cemetery development reserve
- Saskatoon Land - annual financial report
- Pension Plan - bylaw amendments
- Women Leading - Council strategic event - fund application
- Appointments - Public Art, Accessibility, Library
- Bus replacements - budget adjustments
- Cycling safety - Coun. Block motions
Public Hearing Meeting | 6:00 PM
- The Willows: OCP, Concept Plan & Zoning amendments
- Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw review - package 6
- Corridor Planning Program - New Zoning Districts
- Proclamation and Flag Raisings
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