Thursday, March 23, 2023

Nikka Yuko project remains in current Lethbridge Capital Improvement Program

A $2.9 million community facility planned for Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden will remain in the current City of Lethbridge Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

The recommendation was to discontinue the project as Council looks at ways to save money, however that motion failed Monday afternoon (Apr. 6) in a 7-2 vote.

Councillor Belinda Crowson voted to keep the project in the CIP, saying this is something the community needs right now. “This is actually a chance, with the gas tax being federal money, to get federal money into Lethbridge and get it spent on a project. This is a shovel-ready project. The others are not. This is a way to get something built and construction happening this summer, getting jobs.”

Councillors Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro, however voted to remove the project from the CIP.

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Hyggen says as incredible a facility as Nikka Yuko is, now is not the time to be spending $2.9 million dollars. “We’ve had report come in (from KPMG) telling us to tighten the purse strings. I don’t believe that any of us have taken that advice strong enough. We are going to continue down that same road if we don’t tighten those purse strings.”

Councillor Hyggen was referring to the first phase of a City Operational Performance Review from KPMG which came out last fall indicating the current level of spending at Lethbridge City Hall was “unsustainable”.

Back in early March, Colin Hirano with the Lethbridge and District Japanese Garden Society said there is a lot of value in this proposed project. “This would expand the capacity the garden would have. It would allow for a unique area for us to have displays to show off some of the history and symbolism of the garden as well as allowing us to expand the range of services that we provide to the community and to visitors as well.”

Council has been looking at a number of different projects for possible removal from the CIP. Over the past few months, Councillors have voted to discontinue an expansion to the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG) while keeping city pathway extensions in the CIP.

Also on Monday, Councillors voted to continue with the redevelopment of 3rd Avenue South between 4th Street and 8th Street.

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In June, Council will discuss the future of a Downtown Performing Arts Centre.

Any projects removed from the current CIP will have to reapply to get back into future budget deliberations.

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