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Day one of city budget talks cover big ticket items

Grande Prairie city councillors wrapped up their first full day of budget talks yesterday and will continue their deliberations later this morning. Some big ticket items like renovations to the Bear Creek Pool and funding for the twinning of 68 Avenue were first up for discussion.

Councillor Rory Tarant recommended the city spend $5 million on the re-construction of the Bear Creek Pool, an amount that has been tentatively approved by council. Tarant says he thinks it’s an appropriate amount to spend, based on what the city should be able to build with it.

Meanwhile, a decision on final funding for 68 Avenue between 108 Street and 100 Street will be discussed in February after a tender has been opened.

Council also heard a presentation from RCMP members asking for funding to create a new Drug Unit with five new officers and five administrative support staff. Council has elected to support the program at a cost of more than $1.1 million per year.

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Community Safety Director Horacio Galanti says the city’s new Speed on Green Program should bring in enough revenue to pay for the majority of the new unit.

The Speed on Green Program will see red light cameras installed at a number of intersections around the city in December and January. Those cameras will also catch drivers speeding through green lights. Galanti says the forecast income from the project is roughly $800,000 a year, based on what other communities like St. Albert have experienced with similar programs.

Galanti says that revenue should cover the cost of three of the new officers and all five support staff. The remaining two officers will be funded through the city’s RCMP officer vacancy fund.

Other referrals that were approved yesterday include $1.5 million for downtown infill and façade improvement strategies, $850,000 for the South Peace Regional Archives and the Grande Prairie Museum, and $250,000 per year for the next two years for the QEII Hospital Foundation Capital Campaign.

Budget deliberations will continue at city hall later this morning. Once the full 2016 budget is decided council will have to ratify it at their next regular council meeting, though Mayor Bill Given says council can still change their mind about anything in the 2016 budget until the mill rate is set next spring.

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