City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from the Council and Committee meetings in July. The full reports can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Provincial Infrastructure Funding
As part of the provincial government’s economic recovery plan, all municipalities were provided with funding for infrastructure projects. Last month, part of this funding was allocated to neighbourhood traffic improvements, sidewalk rehabilitation, the construction of a Downtown festival site, and freeway safety improvements.
This month, City Council made decisions on how to allocate the rest of this funding. This was all done in a very transparent way that had Council members provide input based on some initial recommendations from the City’s administration. Each of these projects can help to create jobs and improve quality of life in our community. City Council decided to fund:
- $50K for a study on vehicle noise, to help lessen the disruption this causes
- $3.0M for expanding sidewalks to where they do not exist, especially in high-demand areas
- $5.0M for additional sidewalk repair and maintenance, including creating accessibility ramps
- $250K for a public Wi-Fi pilot in Saskatoon
- $1.6M for parks management, to help preserve these assets
- $500K for a pedestrian and cycling rail crossing near Assiniboine and Primrose Drive, something that is much needed to connect the industrial area with Lawson.
- $1.6M for constructing a multi-use pathway along the CP rail line in core neighbourhoods
More information on each of these projects can be found in the City’s report (items 1.1 through 1.7).
The remaining funding (approximately $300K) is being held in contingency. I was in favour of this because the federal and provincial governments recently announced assistance to municipalities to help with the operating deficits that we are facing. However, we do not yet have details on this. Once this is resolved, we can make some further decisions and allocate any remaining funds.
Report on Service, Savings and Sustainability
Staff at the City of Saskatoon are working hard to build a successful and thriving city. A big part of this is looking for ways to be cost-effective and efficient, so we can provide high-quality services and spend less money doing it. This means being creative, problem-solving, and collaborating to have the best results possible.
Each year, the City releases a report that highlights the past year’s success in improving service delivery, creating savings, and making our city more sustainable. Below are some of the highlights, and the full report can be found online.
- The City overhauled its approach to cellphone use and contracts, and this will save over $3.1M over the next five years.
- The Wastewater Treatment Plant is using methane gas produced at the plant for heating, and this will save approximately $300,000 a year in natural gas costs.
- City vehicles were equipped with GPS and telematics helping to provide information on fuel usage and idling. As this is expanded, this could save up to 20% in fuel costs, or $500,000 to $650,000 annually.
- The City passed a new public engagement policy to modernize and improve the ways that we go about engagement and consultation.
- Work continued in implementing a new comprehensive software program for the City. This will create efficiencies and allow for better customer service. In the first six years, this is expected to provide $40 million in financial and efficiency savings. After that, ongoing savings of approximately $10 million per year are expected.
- The Saskatoon Field House underwent renovations to install a new track, enhance court layouts, and improve accessibility of the lobby.
- Saskatoon Transit reached an important milestone of having a 100% accessible fleet.
- The Fire Department conducted a review in 2019 of service coverage, resulting in more responsive emergency service to residents.
- The City received $3.6M in funding from the Low Carbon Economy Fund to help replace street lights with LED bulbs and create a combined heat and power system within St. Paul’s Hospital.
- City Council adopted a Triple Bottom Line Policy to help enable more responsible and sustainable programs and policies at the City.
- The City partnered with the University of Saskatchewan to study pharmaceuticals in wastewater and the potential impact on the environment.
- The Climate Adaptation Strategy outlined 30 actions and initiatives in four areas the City can take to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to climate adaptation.
New Leisure Centre in the City’s East
City Council moved forward with a collaboration with the two school divisions on a potential new Leisure Centre in the city’s east side, near the Brighton neighbourhood, to be located with two new high schools. City Council also asked the City’s administration to bring the YMCA into these conversations to explore what a formalized partnership with them would look like on this facility.
The City’s north east and east sectors have been growing lots in recent years, and because of this there is a growing need for a leisure facility in this area. Partnerships have become an increasingly important way of delivery recreation and leisure amenities, such as Gordie Howe Sports Complex, the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan amphitheatre, and Merlis Belsher Place. Partnerships—in this case with the school divisions and possibly with the YMCA—help to bring down costs, leverage other sources of funding, improve infrastructure planning, and better use the facility.
What would all be included in the facility would still need to be determined through community engagement and discussions with stakeholders. At this time, the provincial government has not allocated any money for construction of the schools, although they have invested in some preliminary planning and modeling. Because of this, the earliest possible year it could be open is 2025/26, but early discussions are very important. More information on this project can be found in the City’s report.
Funding for COVID-19 Response to Support Vulnerable Groups
The City of Saskatoon received $117K funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to support vulnerable people through the COVID-19 pandemic, and Council decided to allocate all of it to the Inter-Agency Response to COVID-19.
At the onset of the pandemic, many community agencies mobilized to support Saskatoon’s more vulnerable population, such as those facing homelessness, addictions, poverty, and severe mental illness. This was done under the leadership of the Safe Community Action Alliance, a collaborative effort between organizations with expertise, experience, and interests in issues related to safety and well-being in Saskatoon. This group then quickly formed the Inter-Agency Response to coordinate actions and disseminate information in the best way possible.
This group anticipates needing over $500K until the end of next June for PPE, cleaning supplies, food distribution, and communications, so this $117K will go a long ways in providing support directly to community agencies that are doing this important work. The group will report back to Council with their results, and more information on this response can be found online.
Household Energy Efficiency
City Council has moved forward with a partnership program with SaskPower to help improve the energy efficiency of certain households in Saskatoon. SaskPower is launching an Energy Assistance Program next month, and they have approached the City to ensure that the program is available to everyone in Saskatoon regardless of whether they are customers of SaskPower or Saskatoon Light and Power.
The program targets low-income households to provide education on becoming more energy efficient and free installation of energy and water saving measures. It includes:
- Home visits and a full walk through to provide education on cost-saving measures
- A tailored report for each participating household
- Installation of energy-saving improvements, such as LED lighting, programmable thermostats, power bars, and water-saving measures.
Typically, the City of Saskatoon matches the programs, services, and rates of SaskPower so that all areas of the city are treated the same. By partnering on this program we can continue with this approach, become a more sustainable community, and benefit from efficiencies of doing this work with SaskPower.
The program is anticipated to extend to 125 households a year for the next three years. It will result in savings for Saskatoon citizens of $230/year, will create more equitable access to energy efficiency measures, and it will enable greater energy and water conservation.