Infrastructure the “No. 1 priority” at SUMA

Lisa
Lisa Goudy
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Mayor Deb Higgins speaks at the Jan. 27, 2014 council meeting.

Province also announces multi-material recycling program

Infrastructure is the main concern at SUMA.

“We ended the day in the cities’ breakout session talking of course about infrastructure, which is a big concern for each and every one of us,” said Mayor Deb Higgins at the end of the second day of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention in Regina that lasts until Wednesday.

“All cities are dealing with the same issues that Moose Jaw is, the rebuilding of roads, sewer, water lines and also building for growth that’s happening in our communities. So infrastructure remains the No. 1 priority.”

Higgins said it is still unknown if there will be a program from higher levels of government to help with infrastructure.

“Conversations sound like there’s going to be something coming, but we’re not sure of any type of numbers or when in fact we might see some concrete plans come forward. So it’s still a question mark but still a priority for municipalities,” said Higgins. “It’s just about impossible for municipalities to be able to address infrastructure shortfall that we all have on our own. So that’s something that we’ll continue to lobby for.”

The highlight of the second day was the address by Premier Brad Wall, she said, who discussed “not wanting to stifle growth” and a possibility to increase the “education portion of property taxes, which I think was a surprise to most of us,” said Higgins.

“(There was) no detail attached of course, just some general comments, so we’ll have to see what comes out in the provincial budget in March,” she said.

On Tuesday afternoon, SUMA will deal with resolutions and some affect Moose Jaw while others don’t.

Also at SUMA on Monday, the provincial government announced $500,000 in funding to municipalities for a multi-material recycling program (MMRP) in Saskatchewan.

“It’s going to be up and running just as soon as possible here,” said Ken Cheveldayoff, environment minister with the province. “We’ve left it up to SUMA to get things started.”

He said SUMA would administer the program to either improve or implement a recycling program. The grant will cover up to 40 per cent of program costs with municipalities funding the rest.

“Saskatoon and Regina have their own programs up and running. So it’s more directed at smaller and medium-sized communities,” said Cheveldayoff. “A community like Moose Jaw would be eligible, but the total budget, and talking to councillors from the City of Moose Jaw, would be well in excess of what this grant program would offer.

“So it could be part of it, but Moose Jaw would still have to look at making some larger decisions on their own.”

Right now, Moose Jaw residents can separate their recyclables and take them to recycling depots or hire Crown Shred from Regina for private curbside recycling. At the Sept. 16 council meeting, the majority of council voted against a motion to discuss the possibility of curbside recycling in budget committee.

“Now, I haven’t heard a lot of the details,” said Higgins. “The announcement was made (Monday), but I haven’t heard a lot of discussions about it and I think the Premier’s address was the focus of the day.”

When asked about the effect on private businesses that do recycling, Cheveldayoff said the MMRP is “designed to augment whatever’s in place.”

“Communities can, if they have a private operator in place, they can discuss with the private operator what would make their job more efficient and more cost-effective for members of the community,” said Cheveldayoff.

Further to that, he said the program would be administered simply and quickly and the province wants communities to discuss current plans.

“We just didn’t pull this number out of the air. We’ve been in discussions with cities, towns and villages and municipalities over the last number of months,” said Cheveldayoff. “We feel that this will be an adequate amount of money to put in place as we move to a larger program for the entire province.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatchewan Saskatoon

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