City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from the Council and Committee meetings in August. The full reports can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Mask Policies in Saskatoon
Both in our community and across the world, there are public policy conversations happening about encouraging or requiring people to wear masks when inside certain public spaces. These conversations are happening in Saskatoon as well, and there has been a lot of public interest in this.
The most immediate and pressing decisions that Council will have to make are around wearing masks when accessing civic services, such as riding a bus or visiting City Hall to pay a bill. Council will be making decisions on this at the end of the month, but at this time it seems likely that masks will be mandatory on buses and encouraged when accessing other civic facilities.
While the lobby of City Hall has been reconfigured to allow visitors to maintain physical distance of at least 2 meters, this is not possible on a bus without running at significantly reduced capacity. As the beginning of school approaches and the weather gets cooler, the demand on Transit will only increase, so I believe that requiring masks on buses will be the only way to fulfill the provincial health orders and run a reliable transit service. The City would be taking an education-based approach to implementing this, as opposed to one based off enforcement. This involves a large communications campaign and single-use masks would be available for the first couple of weeks on all buses.
The City’s administration also came up with a series of transparent triggers that would indicate when it might be necessary to escalate additional precautions. We all want to minimize and mitigate against a second wave, and being transparent about this process is very important.
Additionally, I am engaged on this issue provincially. I have joined with other Mayors asking the provincial government to lead on a province-wide policy to provide the most consistency and clarity.
Enterprise Resource Management Update
The City is well underway a project to transform our internal administrative processes and ultimately enable us to serve citizens better. This is through the implementation of a unified software program, often called Enterprise Resource Management.
The ERP will replace the 279 legacy software systems that exist at the City and create one unified system, making us a leaner and more efficient organization. Although there are costs associated with implementing the ERP, there are even more significant savings associated with it once it is in place. There are over $40M in savings and efficiencies in the first 6 years following implementation, and ongoing savings of $9.7M per year after that, over today’s realities. The savings come from more efficient procurement practices, eliminating duplication, and streamlining and automating processes.
Not only are there savings to taxpayers, but an ERP creates the foundation for the City to have an improved way to interact with citizens with a 3-1-1 centre for calls and emails whenever residents contact the City with a work request, question, or concern. This will help citizens get timely and accurate information no matter how they contact the City.
The City is working hard on all fronts to implement these changes, and the first of two stages of implementation is scheduled for early 2021. There have been some slight impacts to implementation due to competing demands with COVID-19, but the project remains on schedule and on budget.
Good Neighbour Guide
The City’s administration has released the first-ever Good Neighbour Guide, a useful resource for residents of Saskatoon to get information on the City’s bylaws in an accessible way.
The City is switching from an enforcement to an education approach in dealing with bylaw infractions, and the Good Neighbour Guide will be a key way of doing this. It provides an overview to residents on common questions and concerns on such topics as fencing, drainage, sidewalk clearing, boulevards, parking, and home-based businesses. It also tries to do this in an accessible way using plain language, because we know that reading regular bylaws definitely isn’t that accessible.
A copy of the Good Neighbour Guide can be found online, and copies will be available at City Hall and distributed to some key community stakeholders.
Development on 5th and 25th
City Council approved a five-year property tax abatement for a new development happening at 25th Street and 5th Avenue in the City Centre.
The project is a 25-storey mixed-use development that includes 474 rental units, space for businesses, over 500 enclosed parking spaces, and is the largest residential development in Saskatoon’s history. This project checks the boxes of so many priorities: it provides housing options for students and our growing tech sector, it is a significant development in the centre of the city to create strategic density, and it is at the intersection of a future bus rapid transit station.
The City’s Vacant Lot and Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program is a way to encourage new developments in our community and better use existing infrastructure. Here is a quick overview of the policy:
- Any property tax reduction is temporary (up to five years).
- The policy is only set up to reduce the additional value created by the new development, not all of the total property taxes associated with a lot. Therefore the City is not losing any existing revenue.
- The amount of the abatement is determined by an evaluation system that assigns points for different elements that align with the goals of the City, such as density, sustainability, energy efficiency, and the ability of the development to contribute to the public realm.
- All of these abatements are approved in a public meeting, creating transparency in the process.
South Caswell Hill Development
At the end of 2019, the City’s administration wrapped up negotiations to sell the former Saskatoon Transit maintenance facility at 321 Avenue C North. There were certain conditions on this deal to have redevelopment in line with the South Caswell Concept Plan, and the Caswell Hill Community Association has been involved throughout this process to help achieve the wishes of the community.
The successful proponent of this project was supposed to be announced in April, but due to the unforeseen economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have asked that this announcement be delayed until there can be further understanding of the extent of the economic implications. At this time, the City’s administration is optimistic that the redevelopment will occur, but just under a slightly different timeframe than initially anticipated. Although this delay is unfortunate for the community, I am confident that this can still result in something positive for the neighbourhood and a great redevelopment.
After the current project is confirmed, the sale and development of the remaining City-owned sites will continue, and it will build on the first project and the goals of the South Caswell Concept Plan.