Lethbridge City Council last week voted 6-3 to proceed with a revised plan for Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) funded projects which include the Lethbridge Airport renovations and Festival Square Market Plaza.
In fall 2020, City Administration reviewed more than 25 potential projects against the Provincial MSP funding guidelines and submitted three for Council's consideration. City Council approved the $12.06 million in funding to the City of Lethbridge be allocated to the Lethbridge Airport Renovation – Airfield Lighting & Pavement Rehabilitation ($11.163 million) and Festival Square Market Plaza ($900,000). These were submitted and approved by the Province.
On June 15, administration provided an update to Council identifying that the Festival Square project would come in over the $900,000 budget due to a combination of inflation and revised scope. Council requested administration reach out to the Province to explore all options with the MSP funding and provide a report back to Council. The Alberta Government has since advised that while there was no additional funding available and a firm December 31, 2021, completion date for approved projects was expected, that flexibility would be provided to shift money between approved projects.
As administration returned to Council on June 29, a recap of the Government of Alberta correspondence and an update of budget projections for all three MSP-funded projects was provided. The two Airport projects are able to be completed as scoped with a $1.9-million surplus and therefore, administration recommended to shift unspent funds on the Airport projects to the Festival Square project. This will allow Festival Square to proceed – without any City funding – to ensure that the project is delivered as an economic catalyst for downtown – and that no MSP funding will be left unspent.
From the $1.9 million Airport project surplus, Council has approved:
- $810,000 for Festival Square: $485,000 as tendered for water/wastewater servicing, lane rehab, community lighting, entry sign and decorative column lighting, plus $325,000 for additional components such as an interactive stage, a secondary entry sign, programmable lighting and site furniture (tables, chairs, and planters)
- $1,090,000 for extended airport pavement rehabilitation
"This is exciting news and I commend Council for looking into options to ensure these projects move forward," says Andrew Malcolm, Urban Revitalization Manager. "This approval ensures strategic use of our resources by ensuring all MSP grant funding is used. This shows a balanced approach to the distribution of stimulus funding in two strategic locations supporting different segments of economic recovery. With Festival Square, we believe this is a great opportunity to build off the success of patio and parklet infrastructure investment. This project will revitalize existing assets, create jobs and stimulate the downtown economy, as well as support bringing people back to public spaces safely as health measures ease. At the same time, we have been able to address some critical upgrades at the Airport. Even with the shift of funding, we will be able to achieve more with the Airport Pavement Rehabilitation than initially planned which will support future airside leasing opportunities."
As part of the revisions, there are amendments to the 2018-2027 CIP 'Grant – Municipal Stimulus Program' allocations and corresponding totals to reflect the following: Lethbridge Airport Renovation (2018-27 CIP D-43) - $10,353,000; Festival Square Market Plaza (2018-27 CIP D-44) - $1,710,000.
Construction timelines for the Airport Renovations and Festival Square will be updated at a later date.