On the agenda: Police funding formula, Heritage River designation, and more

· The Pulse

City council returns from its summer break next week, just as Taproot Edmonton is starting ours.

A public hearing will take place on Aug. 21, and city council will meet on Aug. 22 and 23. Committee meetings resume the following week, with community and public services committee on Aug. 28, urban planning committee on Aug. 29, and executive committee on Aug. 30.

Here are some of the key items on the agenda for the next two weeks:

  • Administration recommends approval of a tweaked funding formula for the Edmonton Police Service, which includes a cap of 30% of civic department expenses, intended to keep police funding from growing more quickly than other expenses. Salary settlements would remain outside the formula, however, something Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has been critical of in the past. Based on an independent review conducted by PwC, the Edmonton Police Commission supports administration's recommendation. In its analysis, PwC noted that the recommended approach for salary settlements presents "a risk that policing budgets would outpace those of civic budgets" and that there is risk associated with "the unpredictability of forecasted settlements." Under the proposed formula, EPS could request additional funding through service packages.
  • Across the entire Edmonton Transit Service there is a gap of 260,000 service hours per year, based on an analysis completed by administration. Despite a 15% increase in population between 2015 and 2022 and the expansion of the city's roadway network, transit service hours per capita decreased. Several options are being considered to address the gap, including repurposing Valley Line Southeast LRT precursor buses, which would add approximately 70,000 service hours per year at a cost of $7.2 million.
  • The effort to designate the North Saskatchewan River as a Canadian Heritage River could take another step forward if urban planning committee agrees to support and advocate for the designation by writing letters to the provincial and federal governments. City council voted in 2021 to conditionally support the initiative led by Smoky Lake County. Since then, the provincial and federal governments have both endorsed the nomination.
An Edmonton Police Service vehicle parked in front of police headquarters

City council will discuss the Edmonton Police Service funding formula as the first item of business on Aug. 23. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Here are some of the other new agenda items:

  • Administration will provide a verbal update on the transit safety plan and the downtown core.
  • Administration recommends that the mayor sign a letter of intent with the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations to support efforts to increase Indigenous-led housing in Edmonton. The letter outlines commitments that include having the confederacy directly involved in decision-making and activities related to housing for its members.
  • The 2024 council and committee meeting calendar is ready for feedback. The proposed schedule would move from mostly alternating council and committee weeks to a three-week cycle: three main standing committees in Week 1, less frequent committees and non-regular meetings in Week 2, and public hearing and two full days of city council in Week 3. No meetings would be scheduled for Thursdays or Fridays, except following long weekends.
  • An updated terms of reference for council member appointments to the Edmonton Arts Council is ready for approval. The updated terms reflect bylaw amendments that EAC approved at its 2023 annual general meeting.
  • Bylaws 20555, 20556, and 20557 will facilitate the first phase of development in Meltwater, a developing area located within the Ellerslie District.
  • At public hearing, council will consider rezoning applications for low-rise multi-unit housing in Pleasantview, Ritchie, and Callaghan.
  • Several borrowing bylaws will be considered, including:
    • $316 million for the new southeast Transit Bus Garage;
    • $43.8 million for the Terwillegar Drive Expressway project;
    • $35.3 million for projects under the Downtown CRL, including Warehouse Park;
    • $25 million for the Valley Zoo Animal Enclosure Renewal and Enhancement project;
    • $6.7 million for planning and design for CRL projects;
    • $5.1 million for projects in the Quarters CRL;
    • -$44.9 million, to reflect the cancellation of the Valley Zoo — Nature's Wild Backyard Phase II project.
  • Bylaw 20589, which includes amendments to the Council Committees Bylaw to clarify membership for the agenda review committee, is ready for three readings.
  • Administration recommends approval of a renewal agreement with YMCA of Northern Alberta for childminding services at city recreation centres at a cost of $5.5 million over five years.
  • An update on the Community Safety and Well-Being Strategy that was deferred from July 4 will be discussed by community and public services committee.
  • An update on the proposed substantial completion standard, part of the city's growth management framework, includes input from industry that "delaying development in the future growth area will negatively impact market housing affordability in the developing area." Administration plans to return to committee again prior to finalizing the standard in 2024.
  • Implementing a customized charter bus service plan to transport students after school from participating schools to recreation centres would cost about $500,000 in direct operating costs. A less expensive option would be to develop a travel training program in schools to help students use conventional transit service.
  • Administration recommends approval of a lease agreement between the city and Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation for land within the Edmonton Research Park. API has $80.5 million in federal funding to create an integrated research, development, and manufacturing cluster through the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative. The 10-year lease would be for $1 per year, and API would have an option to purchase the land at any time for a negotiated current market value (though the figure is being kept private).

Meetings are streamed live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.