Council grants second extension for report on charging toll to cross Diefenbaker Bridge

City council has extended the deadline for a report on the pros and cons of charging drivers a toll to cross Diefenbaker Bridge to July 22. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Prince Albert city council has extended the deadline on a report discussing options for charging motorists a toll to cross the Diefenbaker Bridge

That report was supposed to come to council before May 31, but the city’s elected officials voted to extend that deadline to July 22. This is the second extension given for this report.

City Clerk Sherry Person apologized for the delay during Monday’s executive committee meeting. She said they need the extra time to fully consider all possible policies, procedures and implications.

“We want to ensure that we are covering off as much as possible to provide members of Council with as complete a review as possible,” Person wrote in a report included in Monday’s meeting agenda package.

Conflicting schedules are the biggest hurdle. Monday’s proposal asked for an extension to June 17, however Person said both Mayor Greg Dionne and City Manager Jim Toye will be away on separate occasions, which would make it difficult to meet that deadline.

Those meetings became necessary after an Agenda Review group decided against placing the report on council’s agenda, and instead referred it back to the Director of Financial Services.

The City Manager, Public Works Director and Engineering Services Manager have all been consulted. So has the city solicitor, but Person said there were still a few more items that required his attention.

Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller made the original request for a toll bridge report on June 6, 2017. Council passed a motion at that meeting asking administration to “investigate the cost to install a toll on access points on Diefenbaker Bridge, including and excluding City residents, and provide the results for a report for consideration at an upcoming Executive Committee meeting.”

After more than a year the report wasn’t finished, so on June 18, 2018, council extended the deadline to May 31, 2019.

On Monday, Miller said she wasn’t happy with all the delays because she wanted council to consider their options before the next election campaign started. However she has accepted the extension as a “necessary evil” that would make sure council had all the information they needed to make the right decision.

“The details are very important to all of us on council,” she said.

After two years, Miller hasn’t softened her stance on the project. In 2017, she argued that introducing a toll could help the city pay for a second bridge across the North Saskatchewan River, while also showing other levels of government it was a serious issue.

She reiterated those comments on Monday and challenged toll bridge opponents to find another way to pay for a second bridge if they didn’t like this one.

“I haven’t changed my opinion on the situation,” she said. “We do need another bridge. Everybody’s asking for another bridge. Here’s my solution. I don’t see anybody else with any solutions, including the province, so here we are.”