Council protects police parking and settles its waste water woes

City Hall | by Paul Dechene

If you’re like me, you’re getting a little tired of all the water-cooler chat about the various unfolding Trump-Russia scandals. Last year, I didn’t even know what kompromat was. Now, Twitter reads like the footnotes to a John Le Carré novel. Well, here are three bits of non-Trump news you can sprinkle into any office gab-fest to turn the conversation a little more local. Because who doesn’t want to talk about surface parking lots, municipal effluent and skate parks?

Cop Car Parking War

First item on council’s Oct. 30 agenda was the Regina Police Service’s request to keep their surface parking lot on Saskatchewan Drive for another eight years.

Wait! Don’t flip the page! I know this sounds boring but it’s really important! I swear!

Especially if you live in the Heritage Community.

The Heritage Community Association’s Shayna Stock came out to oppose the extension of the zoning which allows the RPS lot to exist. The HCA argument is that plans for the area envision it becoming a more vibrant and inviting neighbourhood, with specific plans for Saskatchewan Drive that would see it transformed into a pedestrian friendly “green boulevard.” Keeping a surface parking lot around, Stock argued, would go against this vision.

And, according to Stock, as far as the HCA is concerned, there has been very little progress on city plans to improve the Heritage Community — plans like the Core Neighbourhood Sustainability Action Plan* and the Official Community Plan. And leaving the RPS surface parking lot as-is would be one more lost opportunity for the neighbourhood.

Police Chief Evan Bray, however, pointed out that the RPS is in kind of a bind over the parking lot. First off, the RPS is bound by collective agreements with their employees to provide safe, free parking adjacent to police headquarters. And that means keeping the lot, unless a suitable alternative can be built.

Then, complicating matters, Bray pointed out that the RPS doesn’t actually own any property themselves. Their buildings and their parking lots are all owned by the City Of Regina.

And it’s up to council and city administration to come up with a plan to, say, build them a parking garage somewhere.

In fact, from the sounds of Bray’s presentation, the RPS needs either a new headquarters altogether, or a major renovation the building they have. And as they don’t yet know what the city’s long-term plan is for them — will they stay in the Heritage Community or move elsewhere? — they can’t make a better parking plan beyond living with the Saskatchewan Drive lot.

In the end, council decided to strike a compromise by giving the RPS a extension on the lot, but only for five years instead of the eight that was requested.

After the meeting, Mayor Michael Fougere was asked how long the RPS will have to wait for a long-term, sustainability plan for their facility and their parking lot.

“I can’t tell you how long the wait will be,” said Mayor Fougere. “I can tell you the City of Regina is very much aware of the conditions of the Police Service. They’ve outgrown the building and it’s really, I wouldn’t say ‘dilapidated,’ but it does need some tender loving care. More importantly they’ve outgrown it. They have seven different locations around the city. It’s costing over $1 million to house that. They could be housed in one building and it would be very economical to do that.

“The city is looking at options but I can’t tell you any more detail as to where we’re at with that process or what that looks like. The city is aware of it. It’s one of our priorities as a city to provide adequate space for our police service.”

As for concerns raised by the Stock about the city’s slow movement on implementing the vision of the Core Neighbourhood Sustainability Plan?

“I think it takes time, like any other plan,” said Fougere. “And not to excuse what they perceive as inaction on that one, inasmuch we have several plans across the city that we’re looking at. And I think it’d be unfair to say we’ve shelved that. We’re looking at that in terms of other priorities.

“We could act faster I suppose, that’d be a way to say that.”

See? Thrilling, important stuff. Aren’t you glad you kept reading?

No? Well then, maybe you’ll enjoy a little something about effluent.

Let’s Sell Some Shit

Remember the city’s 2012 plan to sell its waste water to the Western Potash Corporation? Not many people do. It was a big deal at the time because selling the city’s sewage was going to be a hot new revenue, errr… stream.

Well, WPC hasn’t been able to get their potash mine off the ground, what with potash not being the pricey commodity it once was.

And that left WPC and the City of Regina in a pickle.

WPC had signed an agreement that said if they didn’t start siphoning water off Regina’s “Out Pipe” they’d have to pay annual holding fees. And the City had agreed to not sell that sweet, sweet poop-water to anybody else because WPC was going to take as much as their potash mines could handle.

Neither were very happy. So they went about the process of renegotiating the agreement, and finally unveiled the new terms at the Oct. 30 council meeting.

TL;DR: WPC will take less water, have more time to start taking it and pay less money in the first eight years. Meanwhile, the City will charge more for connecting to the water system and have the option to sell waste water to other parties.

Though, why you’d want to buy poop-water for a party, well… you be you.

A Skate Park, Renamed

Council’s last move at their Oct. 30 meeting was to vote, unanimously, to rename the Rochdale Boulevard skate park after late councillor Terry Hincks. According to Mayor Fougere, Councillor Hincks was instrumental in getting that skate park approved and was a life-long advocate for sports and activities for youth. Councillor Hincks passed away last autumn.

* At one time, the Heritage Community was named the Core Community. The name change happened shortly after the Core Neighbourhood Sustainability Action Plan was completed. As for that plan, the CNSAP isn’t a typical neighbourhood plan. Rather, it’s an aspirational vision for the Heritage/Core Community that was designed around many of the principles that went into the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. (In fact the same consultant worked on both the DNP and the CNSAP.) And while council isn’t bound to follow the CNSAP the way it is with other neighbourhood plans, the plan was for the CSAP to form the foundation of a new neighbourhood plan for the area. Unfortunately, despite the city’s new Official Community Plan having passed several years ago, a revamp of the city’s neighbourhood plans has yet to begin. And so, we wait…