Edmonton city council agrees to push back construction of Lewis Farms rec centre

Council votes to defer plans to build west Edmonton rec centre
WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton city council voted Thursday to defer construction of the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre. Vinesh Pratap explains why.

Plans to build a large rec centre for a quickly growing part of west Edmonton were officially put on hold on Day 2 of budget deliberations at city hall on Thursday.

The vote to defer plans to build the previously approved $321-million Lewis Farms Recreation Centre was passed unanimously. Coun. Mike Nickel, however, was not at his seat at council when the vote took place.

Coun. Andrew Knack, who represents constituents who live where the rec centre would have been located, had earlier raised the question of whether the project could go ahead on time but at a lower cost if design plans for the project were scaled back and simplified.

While the project can still go forward at a future date, Knack called the rec centre’s deferral “incredibly disappointing.”

“This is something that is long overdue,” he said after the vote. “It’s sorely needed today. The residents that live in that area have to have a gap in both recreation facilities and for library space.

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“Obviously the change in the provincial budget is what impacted this and that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.”

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Mayor Don Iveson explained to reporters why he believes the decision to push the project back had to be made.

“When council is ready to build this in the future, they’ll have to raise taxes and borrow money to do it,” he said.

“We simply don’t have the capacity in our overall fiscal framework and fiscal plan to be able to do that now, in light of the cuts.”

City councillors are discussing how to find efficiencies in their next budget as the city is currently dealing with nearly $185 million less in infrastructure funding because of provincial cuts that came about in the UCP government’s October budget.

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READ MORE: Edmonton budget talks Day 1: West LRT funding, Lewis Farms rec centre postponement debated

2020 budget deliberations put Edmonton projects under microscope
2020 budget deliberations put Edmonton projects under microscope

Some councillors have indicated they would like to keep a proposed property tax increase at the original 2.6 per cent mark for 2020. Others have indicated they’d like to try and reduce it even more.

–With files from Global News’ Emily Mertz