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Cody urges caution on new infrastructure spending

Cody urges caution on new infrastructure spending
Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody speaks during a city council meeting in November 2017. -- Herald file photo.

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody says there’s no doubt the city needs some upgraded recreation facilities, but whether it can afford the costs that come with in it another matter.

Cody made the comments following the city’s third neighbourhood meeting, held at Princess Margaret Public School on March 20. The age and condition of the Art Hauser Centre and a new indoor pool were some of the issues raised by citizens, who were concerned about the state of Prince Albert’s recreation infrastructure.

Although he agreed with the need, Cody urged residents to be patient as the city continues to navigate some difficult financial terrain.

“We have to be very careful when we talk about new facilities,” he said. “They’re not $2 million or $3 million anymore. They’re $40 million and $50 million.”

Residents in Cody’s ward aren’t the only people in Prince Albert asking for a new indoor pool. According to the city’s Community Master Plan Survey results unveiled last October, roughly two-thirds of respondents listed a new indoor aquatic facilities as a top-five priority for the city. A total of 442 people responded to the survey.

In the past, Mayor Greg Dionne has said a new aquatic centre is “on the city’s radar,” although there have been few public announcements on the issue since last fall.

City council has already voted to spend $143,000 annually on a three-year plan to keep the Marion Aquatics Pool operating. Beyond that, Cody said it’s going to be difficult to find the money for a new pool.

“I think we’re still in fair shape to continue on with the infrastructure (upgrades) we’re doing, but can we add a whole lot of new (spending) to it? I would say that would have to be carefully looked at,” he explained.

Cody added that Prince Albert isn’t in dire straights financially, meaning current infrastructure issues like water main breaks and the replacement of aging underground pipelines should continue as planned. However, he said it won’t be easy to add to that load in the future.

“We’re worried we might get another cut (from the provincial budget) but even if we don’t, the cut we got last year is still there,” he said. “We want to be somewhat careful, but at the same time, we have to do what the people want us to do and still hold the taxes where it’s reasonable.”