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December 2016 Mayor's Column

​​It has been a monumental week for Lethbridge with the announcement that Cavendish Farms will be building a new, state-of-the-art, frozen potato processing plant in our city. The new facility has an estimated construction cost of $350 million – the largest private investment in Lethbridge's history. To put the magnitude of this announcement into perspective, it exceeds the U of L's current Destination Project by more than $100 million. That's a big deal for our community.

Cavendish Farms is a quality, family-owned business that is a major player in the global food industry and we are thrilled that they have picked Lethbridge to grow their business. We want to thank them for their commitment to our community and all of southern Alberta.

This project will help retain and sustain employment in Lethbridge and the surrounding area both in the construction of the facility and the operation of the plant. We are tremendously excited at the potential for new job opportunities and look forward to a continued partnership with Cavendish Farms as they increase their presence in our community. 

This announcement demonstrates to other investors that Lethbridge is open for business. We are encouraging and supporting new growth and working hard to build a strong and diverse business community.

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We are extremely appreciative of a recent provincial and federal funding announcement to support two local transit projects. These projects align with City Council's strategic goal of pursuing a more balanced approach to urban transportation by making our transit system more accessible, convenient and safe for riders.

The City received $10.1 million from the province's GreenTRIP program and $2 million from the federal Public Transportation Infrastructure Fund to support the construction of a downtown regional park 'n' ride transit terminal. The City of Lethbridge will contribute $4.9 million toward the overall $17 million cost of the transit terminal project.

The transit terminal will provide ticket stations, washrooms, protection from the weather and a safe and easy place to transfer buses. The identified location for the new transit terminal is a City-owned parking lot located along the 700 block of 5 Avenue South. Construction is anticipated to begin in early 2018 with completion expected within approximately two years.

The City will also receive $420,000 in provincial GreenTRIP funding towards a $630,000 project that will improve accessibility in the transit system. These funds will support the installation of audio cues on fare boxes and a next-stop announcing system for those unable to read the visual screens.

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We know we can and should do a better job of diverting waste in Lethbridge. That's why it was such a huge accomplishment and step in the right direction for our Council to approve a residential curbside recycling program.

The new blue-carts will initially roll out to select areas of the city in 2018 as a pilot program before city-wide implementation in 2019 with recycling and garbage picked up on alternating weeks.

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You may notice some work starting at the Yates Theatre as part of an extensive renovation project.  Recently we heard some concerns from the public about the new government funding that will expand this project. I want to clarify with residents that the new money allowed us to advance work that was planned for further down the road – it did not add new renovations that weren't need.

Funding comes with a very specific set of rules on how the money can be used and a timeline for when it needs to be spent by. If you don't meet these requirements, the money is taken back. The Yates funding dollars are specifically designated to help improve accessibility and can only be used for that purpose. The money can't be put away for a rainy day. In this case, the funds support things like the addition of an elevator at the Yates. Any time we can secure outside funding sources to help finance work we know is coming, it helps free up dollars down the road that we can put towards other important projects.

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We are continuing to keep a strong focus on social issues in our city. Council recently approved funding that will allow the Diversion Outreach Team (DOT) to continue providing front-line intervention for Lethbridge's most vulnerable residents for the next two years. In the past year, DOT has been involved in more than 6,000 interventions, more than half of those in the downtown area. This decision was made following a presentation at the November 28 Council meeting from the Joint Action Committee.

As the holidays come near, we know the stress of the season can be particularly hard on people and social issues become more prominent. With the ongoing concerns around opid use in our province, I want to remind folks to reach out and get the help they need. The website www.stopods.ca from Alberta Health Services is a great resources to support individuals and families who may be facing drug related issues. You can also call the Addiction Helpline (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) at 1-866-332-2322, or Health Link at 811.

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The past year has been a busy one with significant accomplishments for our city. I'm excited to see what 2017 will bring as we continue to work together to keep Lethbridge strong and resilient. With Canada's 150th anniversary and numerous local milestones such as Lethbridge College's 60th anniversary as well as 50th anniversaries at both the University of Lethbridge and Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, we have lots to celebrate in the coming year. I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season and a healthy, prosperous New Year.