For Michael Behiel, Humboldt’s mayor, the city’s highlights for the year came in the form of both initiatives from the city and projects from the community.
“I’m really pleased with the work of administration and council that we’ve been able to stay the course even with the uncertainty of COVID and the increasing costs fluctuating,” Behiel said.
“I would just like to say thank you to every citizen of Humboldt for your contribution for helping us make our job easier and keeping the city such an amazing place.”
One highlight for Behiel came in the form of the city’s new noise bylaw which judges noise on testable decibels at the property line rather than personal perception. In residential zones during daytime hours from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., the decibel limit is set at 60 decibels. During the nighttime hours from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., it’s lowered to 55 decibels.
After passing it in August, the city held a free vehicle decibel testing clinic at the Uniplex.
Behiel said the bylaw now gives them the ability to deal with loud vehicles and noises that they were unable to enforce.
The city added a new outdoor skating rink/recreation flex space at Centennial Park, on the north side of the skateboard park. The skating rink was completed with Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) grant funding for $350,000, which Behiel applauded administration for acquiring.
“That’s one thing I want to highlight, that our administration is extremely effective, and I’m grateful for that, that they always utilise every grant possible to minimise costs to any of our citizens and taxpayers. They’ve done a lot of excellent work that way to ensure we have these in place with as little cost to the city as possible.”
Over the year the city implemented new irrigation at Glenn Hall Park, taking water from Water Ridge Pond to irrigate the park, a change from previously using municipal water. This isn’t the first area of the city to irrigate this way, with the Uniplex greenery being irrigated with the standing water behind Canadian Tire for a couple years.
“If we can find some way to create local access to water like that we will do whatever we can because our hope is to become as environmentally friendly as possible while at the same time saving as much money as possible.”
Another long-term cost saving project by the city was the replacement of lighting in the aquatic centre over the summer to use LED at a cost of $24,000. The city expects to get a return on the funds in under a decade.
“We have actually been working with SaskPower to increase a lot of our lights to do that with LED streetlights as fast as we can so we can recognize those benefits.”
Other, more cosmetic highlights for Behiel, included the storyboard at Water Ridge Park and a commercial video series promoting Humboldt opportunities for investment.
One project was a community endeavour supported by the city rather than the city itself, was the playground project at Water Ridge Park which opened in September. The project cost just under $200,000 with the city supplying $75,000 – the same allocated for the Bill Brecht Memorial Park playground upgrade project in the 2022 budget.
Behiel said it warms his heart how community members will step forward to make Humboldt the best city it can be.
“We can’t ignore the Water Ridge Park playground that was done primarily by a bunch of amazing fundraisers, but the city contributed some from a portion to keep that going,” Behiel said.
“Any of those things like that are just outstanding examples of our community as far as I’m concerned because they recognize they’re going to benefit all members of our community and all of our visitors. It’s people dedicated to keeping our community as fantastic as they can.”
Another important highlight for Behiel wasn’t from the city, but the announcement of BHP’s Jansen Potash Project. Once mine operations begin, BHP is planning for 600 permanent jobs, with 400 based at the Jansen site, and another 200 from their Saskatoon Discovery Plaza office.
Behiel said the city has embraced the project entirely, and have had multiple meetings with the vice-president of North American operations as well as local figures with the project.
“With them saying they’re expanding and they’re looking to work with the area to ensure our lifestyles are fantastic and that – that’s a commitment of a massive corporation to show that they really are socially aware and they’re concerned about their people.”
Water main replacements were another project, with the water main on 16th Street replaced, and 14th Street between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue planned for 2022.
Over the next year, residents can expect work to continue on resurfacing of Highway 5, which the city is working with the Department of Highways to accomplish; rehabilitation of Highway 30; and dependent on grant approval the city is planning to replace and upgrade Highway 5 streetlights.
For 2022, property owners received a two per cent property tax increase, something which Behiel said is staying with the goal he had when he ran for mayor.
“We worked hard to get the budget in line and be sure the citizens understand the most minimal tax increases we can get away with,” he said. “We are among the fourth lowest among the 16 cities in the province. We only had an 8.2 per cent tax increase over four years, and I’m very proud of that.”
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal