City reopening plan, MEEP funding, Buffalo Pound annual report discussed at Executive Committee
REGINA -- The City’s Executive Committee reviewed an updated version of the COVID-19 Pandemic Bylaw Wednesday that covers a wide range of topics including guidelines and timelines for transit and other City-run services impacted by COVID-19 to begin reopening.
The plan was developed by administration and City Manager Chris Holden, who has additional powers delegated from council due to the pandemic.
TIMELINES FOR REINSTATEMENT OF BUS FARES, PARKING ENFORCEMENT AND MORE
Transit services are set to begin collecting fares again on June 29.
Bus services were temporarily made free as part of the City’s response to the pandemic in March.
It also brings in the suspension of the U-pass program with the University of Regina for the fall 2020 semester or until a future date when the university is primarily offering on-campus classes once more.
The return of bus fares also means front-door loading would also resume with a safety shield put up between the driver and customers.
Also suspended in March was parking enforcement except when it was related to safety, traffic flow or emergency access concerns.
Administration says with the reopening underway the demand has again increased for parking spaces, particularly downtown.
Fees and enforcement would resume on June 15 with other enforcement beginning on June 29 including timed zones, oversized vehicles and loading zones, but there is an exception. The 24 hour overpark regulation in residential areas is not included to reduce the impact on those who continue to work from home.
“It’s part of the movement toward more reopening of the economy, making more services available,” Mayor Michael Fougere said. “Other cities in Canada are doing the same thing at roughly the same time.”
The plan says it’s following the recommendations of the provincial government’s reopening plan in how it’s reopening City-run recreational facilities.
Playgrounds, skate parks, picnic sites and more will reopen with restrictions on June 12 while other outdoor and indoor facilities are expected in parts one and two of phase four, respectively.
Outdoor pools are listed as staying closed for the season due to limits on gatherings and a shortened season.
The Regina Business Improvement District has requested the City allow the expansion of outdoor patios and restaurants as well as waive the fees associated with permitting outdoor restaurants and food trucks.
Administration is recommending the request’s approval in order to allow restaurants to increase their available space to accommodate physical distancing and to show support for the struggling food service sector.
A bylaw amendment is required to waive the fees for permits and will be brought forward to council on June 24.
IN-PERSON SERVICE AT CITY BUILDINGS
The Transit Information Centre, City Hall and the Cemetery Admin Building will all reopen on June 15 to allow for limited in-person service.
The public is still encouraged to use digital services when possible.
Administration also updated a previous forecast the pandemic would cost the City between approximately $12 and $21 million until September, with later losses still to be determined.
As a result of the expanded powers given to the City Manager, some of the plans will be rolled out prior to the next meeting of council although the changes will be reviewed by councillors.
Executive committee also addressed funding allocation for Regina’s $30.92 million allocation of the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP).
The largest portions of the funding are recommended to be used for:
- Wascana Pool Renewal ($12 million)
- Municipal Justice Building Redevelopment ($7.5 million)
- Residential Road Renewal 2020 deferred projects ($6.4 million)
Other smaller uses include permanent pavement markings, pedestrian connectivity, an outdoor rink in the southeast part of the city and more.
Council will further discuss the funding on June 24.
BUFFALO POUND ANNUAL REPORT
The committee also received the 2019 Annual Report from the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant Corporation, responsible for the operation and maintenance of facilities providing Regina and Moose Jaw with drinking water.
Some highlights of the report include an $11 million surplus and updates on a number of improvement projects for the water system including the long term Plant Renewal Project’s progress.
The project’s total estimated cost ranges from $127 to $224 million according to the report that has yet to be financed. It will augment or replace the existing water treatment or replace existing water treatment processes and the physical plant.
Included in the annual report is a letter from General Manager Ryan Johnson, who states the plant met all regulatory requirements and criteria for safe drinking water last year.
“There were minimal problems during the year impacting the Corporation’s operations,” Johnson writes. “The issues were related to loss of power, raw water quality and equipment failure.”
Johnson goes on to say some regulatory issues exist with the process waste lagoons at the plant discharging back into the environment. He adds short term adjustments are being made but notes the Plant Renewal Project will “properly address these deficiencies.”
The report is expected to go before council on June 24.