Ask Me About the Budget: Session 2 with Community Services

Ask Me About the Budget: Session 2 with Community Services

Now is your chance to ask one or more of Edmonton’s senior managers about the City budget, and the programs and services the City provides.  

Do you have questions about how the City manages the budget for fire rescue services and recreation centres? Post your questions here, and on Thursday, November 19, we’ll have senior managers from Community Services answering those questions live during one of a series of “Ask Me About the Budget” sessions. This is the second in a series of five sessions on the budget.

Thursday, November 19, 2015, noon–1pm. Ask Me About the Budget: Session 2 with Community Services

The Community Services Department manages hundreds of activities on any given day, ranging from:

  • community recreation centres
  • the Valley Zoo
  • arenas
  • parks
  • fire rescue services
  • animal care
  • bylaw complaints
  • mosquito and coyote management
  • weeds and sports field maintenance
  • water parks
  • river valley parks trails
  • graffiti and litter reduction
  • the Winter City Strategy
  • the Green Shack program
Answering your questions about this part of the City’s work will be Acting General Manager Rob Smyth.

Answering your questions about this part of the City’s work will be Acting General Manager Rob Smyth.

You can check out the City’s proposed budgets in a number of different forms:

Submit your questions on this blog, now and in the days to come, for Community Services. We’ll be publishing the questions and posting live responses during the lunch hour on November 19, 2015. Join us then for a live, interactive question and answer session.

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20 Comments
  1. Michelle V
    2 years ago

    While I’ve appreciated the zoo, and the zoos of other cities, when i was younger, I’m wondering if zoos are becoming a thing of the past. Does our Valley Zoo pay its own way through admissions and any other revenue? If not maybe we should consider phasing it out as a cost and tax saving and focus on other 21st century pursuits and priorities.

  2. Daniel
    2 years ago

    I live in Oliver and my question is about rec facilities downtown. MacEwan has a great rec centre but I wonder if the City is bringing one downtown soon. Also, with the new Katz Downtown Arena have a rec centre and rinks for average citizens to use?

  3. Thomas J
    2 years ago

    Thanks for answering my question today. For community services, my question is abot the fire department – why do we need a new fire hall in every community – can we build ambulance stations and fire halls together? Also are we able to meet the response time standard in the new high density suburbs on the outskirts?

  4. City of Edmonton
    2 years ago

    Welcome to the second in a series of five sessions we’re holding on the City’s budget and the programs and services the City provides. We are holding these live blogging sessions as part of the public discussions we are having on the proposed 2016-18 Operating and Utilities budgets. City Council will be making decisions on those budgets at the end of November and beginning of December. This is one opportunity we are providing for concerned residents to ask your questions or express your thoughts about the City’s financial priorities.

    With us today is Rob Smyth, who is the Acting General Manager of the Community Services department.

    Rob is here for the next hour to answer questions you may have about how the City manages its fire rescue services, recreation centres, bylaw complaints, parks and other programs/services that Community Services oversees. Over the next week, we will be hosting three more sessions with other senior City managers who are in charge of other City programs and services. Check out our series of blogs which describe the other sessions and join us in the days to come.

    Here’s how our live blog session works. You can ask your questions by commenting on this blog post. We’ll take a look at your question and then prepare an answer for you right away. We’ll take as many questions as we can over the next hour. Any questions we don’t get to, we’ll do our best to answer them in the next little while.

    So get ready to ask your questions at today’s Ask Me About the Budget: Session 2 with Rob Smyth.

  5. Laura
    2 years ago

    Hi, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

    What steps is the city taking to reduce operating costs for city facilities? Example, energy efficiency/solar energy, renting out space, etc?

    And how much revenue from City facilities goes back into supporting these facilities?

  6. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Thanks Michelle for your question about the Zoo. Rather than becoming a thing of the past, zoos are more relevant than ever in today’s increasingly urban society. In North America, more people visit zoos and aquariums than attend professional sporting events, providing a unique opportunity to present conservation and environmental messages. Through education and exposure, accredited zoos help visitors connect with living animals, learn about the challenges facing them and care about the natural world. Edmonton Valley Zoo is involved in education and conservation initiatives that go far beyond the experiences enjoyed by the casual visitor. We are pleased to hear that you enjoyed the zoo in your younger years and can happily advise you that interest in Edmonton Valley Zoo is growing every year. Attendance increased by 34% between 2012 and 2014; we expect it to reach almost 400,000 in 2015. As with all public facilities it is important that our zoo remain affordable and accessible. Revenues from admissions and other sources do recover a portion of costs and the cost recovery is improving as attendance grows. For every dollar it costs to operate the zoo, we generate 42 cents in revenue to help offset expenditures.

  7. Dan
    2 years ago

    Are old fire halls undergoing renovations to become more energy efficient to save on operating and maintenance costs? Do they have a committed budget for this?? How is the city going to fund fire rescue services for newer communities?

  8. Matt
    2 years ago

    Hello,

    This is a great feature, thank you for offering. I have am interested in many questions around community services and projects/facilities but one specific that I haven’t been able to find the answer to.

    How does the City ensure that there are opportunities for support and social services for children and youth. I see everyday youth whom are struggling and I think it’s the city’s role and responsibility to ensure a youth council looks into these issues and finds solutions.

    So my question for the blog is how does the City ensure that youth are not overlooked and prepares an action plan to support all youth? They are some of the most marginalized populations and our future, and it’s horrible to see nothing is being done.

    Thank you greatly, i don’t expect my question to be answered but thank you.

  9. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your question, Thomas. Protection of life, property and environment is Edmonton Fire Rescue Services’ mission. We strive to achieve this through a station based deployment model. This model places fire crews and stations strategically across Edmonton so we can ensure we are able to respond quickly and effectively to emergency events.

    The need for new Fire Stations is linked to many measures such as response times, population and Fire Rescue Services’ Master Plan. Each station serves multiple communities and deployment can change depending on service demands.

    Emergency Medical Services is governed by Alberta Health Services. The City of Edmonton makes the Government of Alberta aware of planned new station locations and provides the opportunity to partner in the project as was done with the Meadows Fire Station.

    We do currently have two facilities that have a combined ambulance station and fire hall, and we are always exploring a variety of approaches with our partners to be able to provide the most efficient service to citizens.

    It is a bigger challenge to meet our response time target in the outskirts of the City. Our Master Plan addresses the city growth. When a new station opens the surrounding area experiences a significant improvement in meeting the response time targets. For example when the Meadows station opened, there was a 40% improvement in meeting the response time benchmark in that community.

    Edmonton Fire Rescue Services’ Master Plan can be viewed here:
    http://ow.ly/UR9vT

  10. Dan
    2 years ago

    And I have another question. I heard in the media that the city wants to decrease herbicide use, so how does the City plan on maintaining dandelions and other weeds on City Parkland and sport fields? Is there enough money in the budget to support these alternative maintenance methods?

  11. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Hello Daniel:

    Thank you for your inquiry about recreation facilities in the downtown area.

    There is no plan to develop another City recreation centre within the downtown core area. Our current Recreation Facility Master Plan brought the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre just to the east of the downtown core, on the LRT line. It is a wonderful Recreation Centre with great amenities and we would encourage you to visit it if you get the chance.

    Our partners, the YMCA Northern Region, have the Don Wheaton YMCA within the downtown core and it is a great facility as well. The City provided funding for the construction of the YMCA and continues to work with them on programming for the community.

    The upcoming (fall 2016) Rogers Place arena will have a Community Arena within the venue. In conjunction with the Oilers Entertainment Group, it will be a public-access facility. This arena will be very similar to our other city arenas with community rental and user group ice opportunities as well as arena programs like drop-in public skating and shinny hockey.

    I hope this information is what you are looking for and helps.

  12. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your question, Laura. We undertake a range of steps to reduce operating costs. Below are two ways we do this:

    Operational Savings
    In terms of energy savings, we build all of our new buildings in accordance with the City’s Sustainable Building Policy, which includes Leadership Energy and Environmental Design-Silver Certification standards. (http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/C532.pdf#search=sustainable (sustainable building policy) We have funding linked with our existing building and roof renewal program focused on facility energy retrofits and greenhouse gas reductions. We also have strategies in place to reduce labour costs, such as self-watering mechanisms in our greenhouses.

    http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/PDF/2015_Budget_Community_Services_Capital_Profiles.pdf (capital program linked with our building and roof renewal program focused on facility energy retrofits and greenhouse gas reductions)

    We are piloting a solar energy project at the Queen Elizabeth Pool. You can read about it here:
    http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/news/solar-energy-powers-up-queen-elizabeth-pool.aspx (Solar energy powers up Queen Elizabeth Pool)

    Increasing revenue opportunities in recreation facilities
    The City undertakes many ways of generating revenue such as growing and retaining memberships, renting spaces for large events like weddings and meetings, building partnerships, and offering new programs and services. The expansion of partnership programs with organizations such as school boards, sports and social organizations help increase use and revenue. We are continually evaluating our programming to ensure it reflects community interests and needs. Successful programs contribute to offsetting operating costs. Commercial retail units such as The Running Room; available in a number of our facilities support our brand, but also help offset our operating costs.

    Our city recreation facilities will generate approximately $60 million in 2015. All revenue generated by recreation facilities supports their operations. Some facilities generate enough revenue to completely offset their direct operating costs.

    To take a look at the wide variety of programs and services available at our facilities:
    http://myrecguide.ca/guide/program-guide.php

  13. Brigette
    2 years ago

    I don’t think the zoo or recreation centers should take first priority with the City resources. Fire services, and maintaining natural parks should be a priority. I am not against the city improving on the park systems, but not to build on them, some of them should remain free from buildings and structures. It would be nice to go somewhere with your family and friends that is not spoiled by expansion.
    Fire rescue services is important, with the city expanding, we need more resources, to keep our city safe. We are over stressed, resources are not available and in a disaster we need our resources to be up to date and available all the time.

  14. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Hello Dan. The City has a Building & Facility Rehabilitation Program and Energy Retrofit and Greenhouse Gas Reduction program that provides funding for building and facility retrofits. A large part of the process associated with these programs is identifying opportunities to improve energy efficiency, and design and construction with an intentional approach to provide lower operating and maintenance costs. http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/PDF/2015_Budget_Community_Services_Capital_Profiles.pdf (capital program linked with our building and roof renewal program focused on facility energy retrofits and greenhouse gas reductions)

    The 2015-18 Construction Budget includes funding for renewal of various fire halls, along with other City facilities. This program includes items such as roof renewal, window replacements and mechanical upgrades to replace inefficient equipment.

    Building new fire stations in new communities is paid for by a combination of provincial and municipal funds. As part of the 2015-18 capital program, the City has approved the construction of two new fire stations, Pilot Sound (NE) and Windermere (SW).

  15. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Thank you for the question, Dan. Council passed a motion June 23, 2015 to ban all herbicides on City-owned land, with exemptions. The control of weeds on parkland and sports fields is never simple or easy. Where there are noxious weeds (as defined by provincial legislation), herbicide use is still allowed. Where nuisance weeds like dandelions are present on City lands, the City relies on increasing plant health care by increased mowing, aerating, over-seeding, top-dressing and trimming to keep weeds at bay. There is an Enhanced Turf-Maintenance request and Alternative Approach to Herbicides request going forward during these 2016-2018 operating budget deliberations. These requests are for between $967 thousand and $3.6 million in additional funding for enhanced turf maintenance and increased plant health measures. Council will consider these requests with all the other requests going before Council as part of the Budget process.

  16. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Hello, Matt. Important question. The City of Edmonton approaches services for children and youth through a child-friendly lens. This considers ensuring that children have a voice, feel safe and protected, participate freely, have fun, develop skills and feel welcome or experience a sense of belonging through their participation. The City offers a wide range of programs and services to meet these needs as well as partners with hundreds of sport, recreation, arts, schools and social agencies via operating funding or lease space to provide community-based service offerings, many of these serving diverse communities.

    Edmonton City Council also benefits from the advice of Youth Council, who provide meaningful input on issues affecting youth. Examples of recent projects or strategies led by the Youth Council include a documentary on youth homelessness — Through My Eyes — leading policy advice to the provincial government on Bill 10 (Gay Straight Alliances) and food sustainability.

    More vulnerable youth are served with access to facilities through our leisure access program, access to transit, after school programming, joint use access with schools and City recreation facilities and housing services targeted to families in need or homeless teens. Children and youth in our city are a priority for City Council and staff. We continue to work with partners and youth to ensure that services and programs are both available and addressing needs. Additional information is provided in the attached link.

    http://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/for_children_kids_youth/child-friendly-edmonton.aspx

  17. Rob Smyth
    2 years ago

    Thanks for your comments, Brigette. We agree that Edmonton Fire Rescue Services is an essential service. Please see my previous response about our commitment to expanding fire services to new neighbourhoods.

    We share your enthusiasm for the preservation of natural areas across the city, including the river valley. Facilities or buildings that are constructed in parks are built to enhance the visitors’ experience. A recent example being the new building in Victoria Park which will support skaters and cross-country skiers. Parks designated as natural areas are typically developed with minimal impact (i.e. natural trails, granular pathways, without buildings).

    It’s true that the City has limited resources, and with Council we must make difficult decisions about where to place available funding. You can help weigh in on this discussion, and we encourage you to speak to City Council directly about the proposed budgets. A non-statutory Public Hearing is scheduled for Monday, November 23, beginning at 1:30 p.m. and running till 9:30 p.m., depending on the number of speakers. The hearing is an opportunity for residents to speak directly to Council about the budgets before Council makes a final a decision in the weeks to come. To speak at the hearing, register online at edmonton.ca/meetings, call the Office of the City Clerk at 780-496-8178 or register in person at the Office of the City Clerk – 3rd Floor, City Hall. City Council will finalize the budgets in discussions that begin November 27 and continue till mid-December.

  18. City of Edmonton
    2 years ago

    That’s all the time we have for today everyone. Thank you for tuning in and asking such great questions! This session has helped us learn more about your priorities for the budget, and we hope you learned a lot about some of services and programs the City provides for you and your neighbours.

    Answering your questions today was: Rob Smyth, who is the Acting General Manager of the Community Services department.

    Join us again tomorrow for Ask Me About the Budget: Session 3 with Sustainable Development and its General Manager Gary Klassen as well as Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and one of their senior managers Adam Sweet. Check out the blog post about that session and send in your questions.

  19. Craig
    2 years ago

    Deal with the coyotes. They killed all the neighbourhood cats, a dog, and one was even eying up my daughter as she played in the island. I’m fine woth deer, rabbits etc., but when you kill a member of my family, then I want justice. My cat, Ella, was killed.

    Green shack is awesome and relied upon. It should be city funded. On the right track there. In fact, why not a white shack over winter holidays.

    Some communities like Haddow do a great winter festival and activites for the kids. We should encourage this for all community leagues. We need to establish a culture where it is the norm again to be out playing in the snow. Our wastelines and brains and hearts need it… and the vitamin D.

    Rec centre and parks are awesome. Close the zoo. Its a prison for animals and it is sick.

    Fire rescue needs to be adequately funded. Especially the crisis intervention parts… and support them woth adequate mental health. We are failing them if suicide is an option.

    Drainage improvements, especially in older neighbourhoods, can’t be ignored anymore. It’s destroying the pavement.

    More indoor or even outdoor winter centres. It is so tough to find ice to play on and this is a winter city. I remember he days when we’d skate all day, not 35 minutes.

    Anyway, the city is on the right track, and listen to the mayor. Don Iveson is the man. Data based decision making and results driven project management is the only way to run a city of this size.

  20. City of Edmonton
    2 years ago

    Thanks for the comment. We have closed the live Q&A session today, but we will make sure your comments are sent to the managers in Community Services.

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