Saskatoon Moving Forward: Updates From City Hall

Snow melt management

Everyone in Saskatoon can't wait for the snow to melt and spring to really get underway, but at the same time, no one wants it to melt too fast and cause flooding. At the March 4 city council meeting (before we knew warm spring weather was still a long way off!), a report outlining plans for the 2013 snow melt were presented to council.

The report explains that because snow melt depends heavily on the amount of snowfall and the rate at which it melts, the snow melt plan is always prepared in advance. Snow melt management plans are prepared for each neighbourhood, important intersections are surveyed and monitored regularly, and Public Works has a staffing plan in place, including for emergencies.

Surprisingly, even though snowfall began early with large dumps in October and November, the report said Environment Canada has reported overall average snowfall accumulation in the city.

New off-leash park

Dogs and their owners will have a new park to frolic in this summer: 14.5 acres within the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, south west of the Montgomery Place neighbourhood, has been designated as an off-leash recreation area. The park was approved at the March 4 city council meeting, and will open this summer.

At the Jan. 21 meeting, council was presented with a report outlining a more systematic way to create new off-leash parks, but the Montgomery park was created following the old format of finding unused space on a case-by-case basis. As the new plan is developed, off-leash recreation areas should be planned as part of neighbourhoods from the beginning of development.

River Landing and Remai Art Gallery

Two of the city's signature projects are gearing up. At the March 18 meeting, the City Clerk filed a public notice of the intent to borrow up to $12.2 million for the design and construction of an underground parking garage at River Landing, plus $23.5 million for the design and construction of the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan, and a loan of for the Remai Art Gallery for up to $500,000 for kitchen equipment.

The loan for kitchen equipment for the art gallery was requested through a productivity improvement loan. The report stated that the all the borrowed money listed above should be repaid in approximately 25 years, through revenue from the parkade and kitchen, the city's Recreation and Culture Financing Plan, and taxation.

The borrowing comes along with a report awarding the bid to build the Remai Art Gallery and River Landing Parkade to EllisDon Construction, at a bid of over $76.8 million. The price tag is more than was originally budgeted for the project, but was the lowest bid out of three received.

A change was also made to the agreement between the city and the art gallery to reallocate $500,000 of the $15 million donation from the Remais to create a space to showcase 405 Picasso works the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation donated in 2012. The space will be called the “Picasso Salon.”

Saskatoon receives AAA credit rating

All this talk of borrowing millions of dollars may make you wonder how the city's credit rating is doing, and it turns out, Saskatoon is doing well.

Bond rater Standard and Poor gave Saskatoon a “AAA/Stable” credit rating based factors such as the city's strong relationships with other levels of government, its diverse economy, its “strong and prudent” financial policies and management, and its ability to manage debt.

Saskatoon annually employs a bond rater to determine the city's credit rating.

Spring pothole management

If you've done any driving in Saskatoon lately, you've surely noticed potholes. A report to council at the March 18 meeting noted that the 2013 pothole season had started early due to the freeze-thaw conditions the city saw in February and March.

The planned switchover from winter to summer operations was April 7, which is around the time hot mix asphalt is available, the report explains. With the proliferation of potholes, a plan was put into place to use cold mix on high priority streets, and gravel on low priority streets, until the time that hot mix asphalt was available to use.

Crews are now on the streets in full force, with 17 crews working on high-traffic roads to fill potholes with hot asphalt.

No U-turns in school zones?

Saskatoon residents may soon have another rule to follow in school zones: At the March 4 meeting, a recommendation was put forward to prohibit vehicles from making a U-turn in school zones when the schools zones are active.

CBC reported the argument for doing so is because U-turns are “a serious risk to pedestrians, particularly when the nearby streets and crosswalks are heavily congested.”

That recommendation was put to a committee to determine if a 24-7 ban was more favourable, but at the April 8 meeting, the committee reported a full-time ban would be difficult to enforce. Council will vote on the plan at its April 22 meeting.
Rutted roads

At the April 8 council meeting, snow removal was again a hot topic, this time focusing on the deep ruts that have formed on many residential streets.

Metro reported councillor Darren Hill as saying that Saskatoon residents would be comfortable with a tax increase to avoid similar issues in the future: “I’ve heard loud and clear from the citizens of that they don’t mind a property tax increase if they see value for that increase, particularly in snow and ice and the state of our roads,” said Hill.

The city has received 141 vehicular damage claims this year, 95 of which were for the first week of April alone.

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