Lethbridge city council pushes Capital Improvement Program final budget decision at least 2 weeks

After five full days of deliberations last week, Lethbridge city council will wait at least two more weeks before making any final decisions on the amended Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget.

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The motion to postpone the CIP decision until June 1 came from Coun. Blaine Hyggen on Tuesday, with Hyggen saying he felt like the process had been rushed.

“Many things were changed, many things were supported, some were not,” Hyggen said. “So yes, Blaine — Councillor Hyggen — needs the time absolutely, but moreover, the community needs the time to reach out to us and give their input.”

Hyggen’s motion to postpone was supported in an 8-1 vote. Coun. Rob Miyashiro was the lone vote against the delay, saying he and his colleagues have already talked each item “to death.”

“We had all weekend to look at it, and not only that, but we had every evening last week to review what we had done during the day,” Miyashiro said.

Miyashiro also referenced how his colleague — Coun. Joe Mauro — chose not to participate for most of last week’s CIP deliberations. Mauro voiced his disagreement with the CIP process on Wednesday morning, and after an unsuccessful motion to postpone the entire week, chose not to take part in the final two-and-a-half days.

“We had one of our colleagues that left halfway through, decided he could come back and vote on it anyway,” he said. “Two weeks won’t make any difference.”

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Curbside organics among topics discussed on Day 2 of Lethbridge CIP deliberations

When the CIP budget comes back to council on June 1, it will include a pair of amendments that were passed Tuesday, prior to the postponement.

The first was a motion from Coun. Jeff Carlson in regards to the $10.6 million curbside organics program that is being recommended in the CIP.

Carlson’s motion was to change the funding source for the green cart program to unrestricted grant funding in place of borrowing. He said by going this route, council would reduce the monthly cost for residents — originally pegged at about $7 per month — by about $2 a month.

Hyggen, Mauro and Coun. Ryan Parker were opposed but the motion carried in a 6-3 vote.

The second amendment on Tuesday was raised by Miyashiro, who proposed that council amend the CIP by allocating $5 million from available funding to increase the supply of safe, appropriate and affordable housing in Lethbridge.

For the 2022-31 CIP cycle, the city currently has about $31 million in unallocated funding.

Hyggen voiced his disagreement with the motion, saying that council can’t throw money at things without a plan.

“I’m shocked to hear what we’re talking about here,” Hyggen said.

“We know we have money here, so we have $30 million left over. Oh, let’s just throw it here, throw it here, we’re going to look really good if we do that but we don’t have a plan. We do this too often.”

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Councillor Belinda Crowson disagreed with Hyggen’s stance, saying that it is council’s responsibility to commit to providing accessible housing.

“If you have strategies but you don’t have money to actually support them, they simply become plans that sit on a shelf,” Crowson said.

“What we’re saying here is we absolutely understand how vital it is that every resident in our community has housing.”

Hyggen and Mauro were the only members of council opposed to the amendment, which carried 7-2.

The budget that will go before council again on June 1 was amended and discussed as council sat at the Economic Standing Policy Committee last week. Those decisions are just recommendations until passed at a city council meeting.

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