Residents want city to reconsider its plans to find savings, increase revenue

·3 min read
More than 15 speakers shared their concerns about the city's plan aimed to reduce costs in some departments. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
More than 15 speakers shared their concerns about the city's plan aimed to reduce costs in some departments. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

When Colleen Switzer was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer seven years ago, she needed to find a less stressful career.

So she gave up her sales job and became a city bus cleaner.

But now she and others in the city's fleet management cleaning department are at risk of losing their jobs under the city's Reimagine Services plan to reduce costs in some departments, she said.

"I've seen and heard firsthand ... the fear and worry this possible decision has placed in them. I'm here today in hopes that you will reconsider the option to privatize," she told a special executive committee meeting Wednesday.

"Not only are we employees, we are a community. As a community, we should consider the affect it would have on its members, no matter how big or small."

CBC
CBC

The plan is to help the city cut costs and find revenue areas to make up for the losses accrued during the pandemic.

The city is looking at reducing, cutting or privatizing services — public transit, mowing sports fields, fire services and collecting garbage.

More than 15 speakers shared their thoughts on the plan Wednesday morning, with most opposed overall to the city's strategy for long-term cost-savings.

Several speakers mentioned the lack or limited opportunities for community members to share their thoughts on the plan.

"We want the city to involve us and not just inform us," said Steven Hogle, general manager of Hockey Edmonton.

Many of the speakers also wanted further details of some of the changes provided in consulting firm KPMG's report.

City Manager Andre Corbould said in an emailed statement after the meeting that the city would release the consultant's analysis.

"I appreciate and want to acknowledge their perspectives, especially as we continue the difficult task of working towards a balanced budget under tough financial constraints," he wrote.

Details of the plan

The city's reimagine report covers a wide range of city departments.

City administration recommended cutting back in five of the largest service areas:

  • Fire Rescue Services

  • Facility Management and Maintenance

  • Fleet Management and Maintenance

  • Parks and Open Space Access

  • Recreation and Sport Facilities Access and Recreation and Culture Programming

CBC
CBC

City officials wanted to move ahead with 18 measures in those departments. The total estimated potential cost savings in those departments between 2022 and 2027 could be upwards of $16 million.

Among the suggestions is to introduce paid parking at city parks like Emily Murphy and Fort Edmonton and attractions like Muttart Conservatory and TELUS World of Science next year.

The city is also scheduled next year to gauge interest in a third-party running Riverside, Victoria and Rundle Park golf courses.

Many of the union presidents at Wednesday's meeting were concerned what the impact of the plan would be on frontline workers.

Greg Rehman, president of the Edmonton Fire Fighters' union, is concerned with the city's plan to pilot two, three-person medical teams in smaller vehicles downtown instead of using two pumper trucks when responding to medical calls.

"It will potentially pose an increased risk to firefighters and the public," he said.

Corbould said at this time, no decisions have been made. Council will discuss the planned parking fees and parts of the plan at a meeting on July 5.

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