Blackfalds town council approves 16.8 million capital budget

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Blackfalds town council has approved a $16.8 million capital budget for 2020.

At their last regular meeting, council gave third and final reading to the budget outlining 11 projects, with $5,662,600 to be funded through reserves and donations, and $3,425,000 from grants. The remaining $7,715,000 will be funded through debenture borrowing.

The largest project on the books is $10.5 million for the Blackfalds Multi-plex expansion and Centre Plaza Project which will see the existing arena twinned, as well as the creation of a new 10,500 square-foot dedicated space for the Blackfalds Library. Concept renderings for the project are expected to go before council at their Dec. 10 meeting, while the goal is to put the project out for tender in early 2020, with the project to be completed in 2021.

A total of $3.5 million will go towards the Womacks Rd., Gregg Street and rail improvements, a combined realignment project the municipality says “is an integral part of the town’s transportation network and will provide the only major east/west traffic route other than Hwy 597 or Lakeside Sargent Rd. (40-0).

“This major east/west connector will ensure that development flows from the east side to the west and back again are smooth, safe and limit bottlenecks.”

Other projects include $1.55 million for the East Area Storm Management Plan which is finally going forward

A total of $300,000 apiece will go towards the first phase of the Broadway Ave. sanitary upgrades, and fitness equipment replacement, while $250,000 will be allocated to the replacement and moving of the outdoor rink pad. The town will also look at moving the RV dump station from its existing Multi-plex location to the tune of $180,000.

SCBA units for Fire Services will be replaced for $94,600, and an inclusive parking lot will be built near the inclusive playground off Vista Trail for $65,000.

A total of $28,000 will be put towards purchasing of 6-7 additional AFRRCS radios for the fire department to allow them to communicate with RCMP and Lacombe County Fire when the county purchases the radios within the next four years.

The town rebranding project, meanwhile, is on the low end of the budget at $35,000, which may include changing the logo, tag line, and colour palettes, as well associated messaging in the community.

Most projects, according to council notes, were given unanimous consent during the budget retreat in early November, but the rebranding project was one that created some discussion. While a vote then saw it remain in the budget, Coun. Rebecca Stendie voiced her concern about the project at the regular meeting, and ultimately was the lone councillor to vote against the capital budget as a result.

“I still don’t understand why we would go ahead with rebranding when the public opinion survey displayed that residents do not see a need for it, nor do they want to spend money on it,” she said. “As I said before, unlike communities around us, we do not have the issues that bring most to rebranding. We have a strong and constantly growing population…We have an influx of new businesses coming to town.

“Blackfalds is doing pretty well, if you ask me. Spending money needlessly when we are dealing with the results of the latest economic downturn seems reckless, especially when we have residents specifically asking us not to spend money on this particular project.”

Coun. Laura Svab was absent.

The operating budget, which is expected to include a one per cent property tax increase, will go before council at their next meeting.

Impact on Parent Link and FCSS program as a result of the provincial budget, as well as the future of BOLT Transit, following the City of Lacombe’s decision to exit the regional system, will be monitored by the town, with decisions to come before spring adjustments.

The 10 Year Capital Plan will also be brought back at spring adjustment time.

The next regular meeting will be on Tuesday, Dec. 10 and start at 7 p.m. at the Civic Cultural Centre. Meetings are streamed live online and can be viewed on the Town of Blackfalds YouTube channel.