City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from the September Council and Committee meetings. Full reporting can always be viewed at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Farmers’ Market Update
The City is seeking solutions that bring a market together with activities that will animate the building throughout the week. The building will unfortunately have to be closed starting in January for extensive repairs to the roof, and City Council directed the administration to get a market in this space as soon as possible following the repairs, with a concerted effort on the outdoor market in 2020.
When this issue came to Council a year ago, we heard the passion that people have for this building, and Council decided at that time to be explicit about the need to have a farmers’ market in this space. Because it is a City-owned building, we issued a request for proposals to figure out how to animate this space in the best way possible so that it can be used on non-market days as well, but we were also explicit about showcasing local food and products and having at least two days a week with a farmers’ market. The full criteria of the RFP can be found online.
The Farmers’ Market Building is in a beautiful location along the river, close to Downtown, and is a prime space for public use and gatherings. It is meant to be a destination site, a bustling place where people can come throughout the week, to visit, celebrate local food, and experience a unique piece of Saskatoon. Together with the community, the City has made a significant investment to make River Landing into a great destination for residents and visitors in our community, and having a farmers’ market here is proving to be such an important part of this. I remain committed to this vision of having a local farmers’ market and great animation of the building.
For more information, the City’s administration has developed some key points on this matter.
Partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council
City Council made an agreement with the Saskatoon Tribal Council to create a stronger working relationship between our two organizations. The agreement, entitled “Sharing Prosperity Through Reconciliation,” is borne out of the reality that STC and the City both seek to serve many of the same people and that our work intersects in many ways.
There are already many ways that we are working together on tangible issues and projects in our community. Projects such as White Buffalo Youth Lodge, the naming of Chief Mistawasis Bridge,
employment and youth training initiatives, affordable housing, economic development, and collaboration on community safety and well-being.
The agreement provides a clearer framework for this collaboration. It sets out meeting protocols and a framework to make progress over the next five years. By having a strong relationship, we can increase the collaboration between our two organizations and maximize the impact we are having.
I would like to thank the staff of the City of Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Tribal Council for their leadership in bringing this partnership forward.
Electric Bus Pilot Project
The transportation committee heard a proposal from Saskatoon Transit for a one-year lease for an electric bus to test and analyze its performance throughout all seasons. If the pilot is successful, Saskatoon Transit will plan to move to an electric fleet beginning in 2022 using funding from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
Transitioning to an electric bus fleet will save the City money because of decreased fuel and maintenance costs and a longer lifespan of the buses. These savings are expected to be $300K for each bus over its entire life. An electric fleet would also reduce CO2 emissions by 11,000 tonnes annually.
Another benefit with this switch is the increase in reliability. St. Albert Transit said their electric buses were the most reliable ones during periods of extreme cold. The emissions control system on diesel buses have issues in cold weather, and this caused Saskatoon Transit to not have the required number of buses available for regular service during the extreme and prolonged cold last February.
This one-year lease will cost $375K (from the transit replacement reserve), with the possibility of half of this cost covered by the Green Municipal Fund with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Kahkewistahaw Urban Reserve
City Council approved a new urban reserve in Saskatoon with the Kahkewistahaw First Nation on a 40 acre plot of land near the airport.
For over thirty years, Saskatoon has been leading the way in the country in establishing urban reserves, and it is a sign of strength for our city. We can be proud as a community that the Kahkewistahaw First Nation saw opportunity in Saskatoon for a partnership and committed to work with the City to spur
investment and opportunity. Right now, urban reserves in Saskatoon are adding many jobs and lots of economic activity to our city. This one in particular is helping to address a growing need for services and businesses near Hampton Village, Westview, and Hudson Bay Park, so this will help to directly serve all residents in the nearby neighbourhoods. I would like to thank the Kahkewistahaw Chief and Council for advancing this in Saskatoon.
What Council approved was an agreement between Kahkewistahaw and the City on bylaw compliance, paying the equivalent of property taxes, and having the City provide services to the area.
More information on urban reserves can be found in the City’s FAQ document.
City Council made some decisions about the future of the curbside recycling program and what materials will be accepted as the City enters into a new contract in 2020. There are two types of material
that will no longer be accepted in the blue bin starting in 2020:
- Black plastic: Like other municipalities across the world, this program will no longer accept black plastic (coffee lids, take-out containers, etc). It is difficult to sort, has limited uses, and has limited to no marketability
- Polycoat: Polycoated single-use coffee cups will not be accepted because these materials are difficult to recycle (they are a blend of materials) and there aren’t strong markets for them.
The final cost still needs to be negotiated, but it is anticipated to cost between $7 and $7.50 a month per household. The main reason for this increase is because processing costs are no longer being offset by a higher value of the materials being sold. However, even with these increased costs, a scan of other cities shows that the new fees will still be on the lower end when compared to similar programs.
These are all unfortunate changes, but I believe they are necessary responses to global recycling trends.
Cities across North America are having to respond to falling prices, increased regulations, and ongoing uncertainty. More information on this can be found in the City’s analysis.
New Central Library
The Saskatoon Public Library gave a presentation on their plans for a new central library in Saskatoon. This is an important project that has been talked about for over two decades now. New central libraries have been transformative for many downtowns in North America. Halifax and Calgary are two recent Canadian examples that have been getting a lot of attention. Getting this project sorted out is a key piece of Downtown planning for the next several years.
If their business plan and budget requests get approved by City Council during this year’s budget deliberations, the new location is slated to open in 2026. The highest range of the cost estimate—inflated out to 2026—is $154M, with $87.5M of that needing to be borrowed. The remaining money will come from reserves, fundraising, and the sale of the existing building and land.
This project has been underway for many years, but now is a crucial time for due diligence and making the best decisions for our community’s future. I believe that we need to move forward with getting a library built, but that there are important questions that need to be answered before proceeding.
The $154M cost that has been talked about a lot in the media and the community is certainly a significant one and it is not something that I take lightly. The Library has provided some context to this number. First, this includes a healthy 25% contingency and it is in inflated to 2026 dollars. The Library also told us that all of their estimates are very conservative—construction costs, fundraising goals, and land sale costs, etc—so there is significant potential to bring this number down even further. When City Council makes its decision these are important factors to consider to get a fuller picture of the impacts of the project.
City Council has asked for additional information to be brought forward before the City’s budget deliberations, with the potential of making a decision on the maximum amount of borrowing that could
be allocated to the project. This gives Council a more thorough understanding of the business plan, how a library will complement other downtown developments, and other implications of a new building. The City currently enjoys a AAA credit rating and a favourable debt to operating costs ratio, and these are all important considerations for the decision-making process.