I’ve been doing some travelling recently and just returned from Saskatoon. Whenever I’m in another city, I like to learn about what the council of the day is doing.
After many years, the province of Saskatchewan is booming and Saskatoon is growing quickly, more quickly than some would have imagined possible. By 2026, it is expected that the population will increase by 50,000 people, with much of the growth in the nearby rural areas.”
With growth comes challenge and the city is preparing for these changes with plans to densify its neighbourhoods and is also making improvements to public transit to encourage people to get out of their cars.
Part of this strategy includes building another bridge in this city of bridges to streamline and improve traffic patterns. Some citizens are not happy with the prospect of building up, not out and are worried about what the increase in population will mean.
All of these concerns have a very familiar ring. Although we are not dealing with the same magnitude of growth in the Kootenays, we are experiencing a modest upward trend with some of the same issues.
The city, with your input, has completed its large planning pieces and is putting those plans into action. The regional district is also preparing for the future with its own planning. Combining our efforts to encourage smarter growth will result in better outcomes for people and the natural environment that is the reason we choose to live here.
The continuing theme in these columns over the last few weeks has been the budget. By the time you read this article, council will be on the home stretch and will present the proposed budget at the library on April 4.
The perennial challenge is how to maintain existing services levels without raising costs. It’s a tough balancing act. Staff have been challenged to seek out other sources of possible revenue besides taxation and are researching some interesting ideas including alternative energy sources. You’ll hear more about this and other possibilities as they develop over the coming months.
We have also been studying existing service levels to better understand if there is room for change. For example, annual costs for snow removal are close to $700,000/year depending on the amount of snowfall.
One of the simple, money saving changes has been up to you, the taxpayer. By simply parking vehicles off the street where possible or alternating which side you park on, enables efficient snow removal. If the plow can make one pass instead of two or three to get things done, it’s less expensive.
We are also studying if there is room for change in the level of service while maintaining safety. Over the last few winters, we’ve been clearing more sidewalks. This has been a great improvement for pedestrians, but it’s been observed that on some streets people still prefer to walk on the sanded roads.
Could it make more sense to continue to clear the sidewalks on the main walking routes while keeping the roads widened and sanded in other areas? This could be one of issues you can discuss with us tonight at the library. I look forward to seeing many of you there.