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May 2019 Mayor's Column

​A new provincial government brings with it new opportunities for advocacy and partnership so we can continue to advance our city. There are several priorities we have as a city and are committed to working with our new government to address the needs of the residents we serve together. We have written to several of the newly inducted cabinet ministers to start the conversation about how we can work together to build a better and brighter future for Lethbridge. Our next step will be to meet with them in person to keep that conversation going.

One particular form of commitment we're seeking from the new government is for it to continue the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding, which contributes to a variety of municipal infrastructure projects. This funding has assisted in us providing many amenities to our residents including the future fire station in west Lethbridge, Casa and world-class facilities like the newly completed ATB Centre.

ATB Centre is a multi-purpose leisure facility that provides our residents a variety of amenities, all under one roof. The facility recently played host to its first hockey tournament since the building was officially completed and we are told teams and families attending the tournament took full advantage of hitting the pool and the gym while they were in the centre. This was exactly the vision that City Council had in mind when we first developed the idea of a multi-purpose leisure centre. A place that offers many gathering opportunities for health, wellness and fun for all ages from both within the city and beyond.

One more vision that is now a reality is our long-awaited curbside recycling program, which rolled out this week. It was a wonderful sight to see blue bins out in my own neighbourhood on Thursday and one I hope many others welcomed too. The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) officially opened on May 8 with Deputy Mayor Blaine Hyggen on hand to push the start button with two young environment-enthusiasts from Fleetwood Bawden Elementary. Talaya Owens and Adison Sansome were part of the Helen Schuler Nature Centre's Natural Leaders program. Having a group of school children help to open this facility is a timely reminder about who we striving to create a better city for.

City Council recently heard a presentation from downtown business owner and board member of the Downtown BRZ, Hunter Heggie, in which he highlighted the positive signs that he's witnessed as a result of the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy. Mr. Heggie had previously presented to Council as a concerned member of the business community to ask what the City was doing about the opioid crisis and the effect it was having on the downtown community. Amongst the positives he noted was the united front that many organizations are presenting in the overall effort to rise above, come together as a community and find solutions to the crisis.

We are well into implementing our clean and safe strategy and it's been encouraging to see and hear the positive outcomes from those who live, work and play downtown. There is still important work to be done and we're not out of the woods yet, but what we do know is the programs already put in place are yielding good results. Existing programs and resources such as Crime Stoppers are still excellent avenues for reporting illegal activity and are one piece of the overall puzzle to help combat crime in our city. The Watch program has been in place for just over two weeks now and seeing those red jackets and shirts downtown has been great. The teams of patrollers are making connections and supporting our downtown every day.

One other action item which is aimed at revitalization of our downtown that has recently come to fruition is the Targeted Redevelopment Incentive Policy municipal tax cancellation incentive. This tax cancellation incentive has just been applied to the first development project located at 608 5th Avenue South. A building that many may remember as the old AMA building across from the Lethbridge Herald is about to undergo a dramatic facelift. The owners of the property are set to invest more than $4.5 million dollars into the redevelopment and thereby injecting major investment into our community. The tax cancellation incentive will freeze the assessment price of the property for a seven year period. The gains in future tax revenue, downtown business development and community building far outweighs any perceived loss.

The weather forecast isn't exactly calling for a warm and sunny May-long weekend (does it ever?!) but if you do have the opportunity to get out and enjoy the city and beyond, I hope it's a relaxing and safe one.