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February 2019 Mayor Column

​Since the City of Lethbridge took ownership of the Lethbridge Airport in the spring of last year, we've seen a dramatic increase in passenger traffic.

A recent report from Tourism Lethbridge shows a 75 per cent increase in passenger traffic. The report compares passenger numbers from November 2017 to November 2018 and shows there were more than 10,000 visits to the Lethbridge Airport in November 2018 alone.

The increased passenger traffic is in no doubt thanks in part to WestJet adding YQL to its route. With the addition of another carrier to our airport, it has given more options for our community and to our neighbours. More flight times, routes and igniting competitive pricing means more Lethbridge residents are able to leave the car at home and catch a ride to their flight, as opposed to making the trek to Calgary or south of the border.

More competition and more traffic means other carriers are also starting to see the opportunities YQL presents. Air Canada has recently committed to sending a larger aircraft with more seating capacity to its flight service in Lethbridge. The days of the cramped boarding on the 19-seat Beechcraft 1900 will be in the past come April this year. Instead travelers will be boarding a 50-seat turboprop aircraft, which the carrier intends to use for its three daily flights from Lethbridge.

The Lethbridge Airport is an important asset for our city and region that we believe has tremendous potential. We encourage leisure and business travelers to take advantage of the increased flight options, competitive pricing and convenience of using the Lethbridge Airport. As we go forward, we are seeking federal and provincial grants to make the improvements and expansion that are necessary to enhance the airport's viability and help foster the development of a distribution hub for our region as well as support the growth of aviation-related businesses.

A 2016 airport study, commissioned jointly by the County and the City, recommended preparing an Airport Master Plan, which is currently being finalized, as well as considering improvements and expansion of the Air Terminal Building in order to improve the airport's competitive position.

Near-term goals are to improve the passenger experience on inbound and outbound flights, which will require upgrades and expansion of the air terminal building. The longer-term vision for the airport is to establish a strategy for the development of land adjacent to the air terminal building that takes full advantage of the close proximity to the airport, the city and highway transportation routes.

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As we begin to wrap-up our phase 1 curbside recycling program, city-wide implementation is just around the corner. Blue carts will be arriving to all Lethbridge homes this spring.  

In early January, we launched an education campaign for the rest of the community to learn more about the ins and outs of curbside recycling. This will be critical to the success of our program.

We can't stress enough the importance of collecting clean, accepted material and having a low contamination rate, which is why educating our residents is so important. We need to ensure the material we collect can be sorted safely and will have value in the market.

I encourage you to visit the new website curbside.lethbridge.ca to learn about the new program, so you can help us be successful. You will also receive full details of the program in your blue cart when it is delivered to your home.

In phase 1 of our curbside recycling program, staff have done audits on the material that was collected, and will continue to do that in phase 2. This information helps identify how we can improve and provide feedback to residents. The number one contaminant so far has been plastic bags and plastic wrap. It's important to keep these materials out of your blue cart, as they can get wrapped in the sorting machinery and cause damage.

Over the last month, residents have had the chance to downsize their cart size to the smaller 240L cart if they believed space was going to be an issue or they couldn't fill the larger cart. So far we have had about six per cent of households downsize, which was lower than anticipated. We hope this is a positive sign that residents are excited to fill their blue bins with all their recyclables. Today is the last day to downsize your cart and that can be done online at curbside.lethbridge.ca/carts.

Another big part of the curbside recycling program is the construction of the Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF. This is the facility that will sort and process the materials we collect. The outside construction of this building is now complete and the installation of equipment is in its final stages. The building will be commissioned and staff will be trained ahead of the curbside program starting later this spring. This is exciting progress for our community as we take big steps forward in our environmental stewardship.

I would like to thank the 900 households who, for the last year, have been part of our phase 1 program. These folks tested different delivery models, provided feedback and helped staff shape a city-wide program. In the first nine months of the program they helped divert more than 50,000 kg of recyclable materials from our landfill. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish as an entire community.

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As we head into the family day long weekend, we have many great activities happening in our city. Check out events at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, Galt Museum and Casa, or enjoy free skating at Nicholas Sheran Arena. Family Day Unplugged is another initiative that we support that encourages families to disconnect from their electronics for the day to re-connect with each other. However you choose to spend the holiday, may you enjoy time with those who mean the most to you.  Happy Family Day!