EDMONTON -- A new review has identified potential cost savings and revenue generators for the City of Edmonton to help recover from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic recession.

From introducing paid parking at five city sites and attractions, reducing recreational programming, and diverting firefighter responses to medical calls, the city is considering 18 costs savings or revenue creation opportunities.

Financial woes prompted the city to create the Reimage Services project that has been in the works now for almost a year.

According to a news release from the city sent on Friday, the shortlist of 18 cost savings or revenue creators will be presented to city council on June 22 but can be advanced without formal approval.

The actions identified will take effect in the city’s 2022 budget cycle.

Areas the 18 actions could affect include Park and Open Space Access, Recreational and Sport Facility Access, Facility Management and Maintenance, Supply Services, and Fire Rescue Services.

City administration projects that if all the estimated savings are implemented they will free up in the range of $572,000 per year and up to $1.4 million.

“While these reviews started in response to the changing economic conditions and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the actions being presented to council are necessary in order to manage the corporation for Edmontonians in a way that ensures services are effective, efficient and relevant today and into the future,” said Andre Corbould, city manager, in a statement.

CITY GOLF COURSES OPERATIONS PRIVATIZED

The city said that revenue at their three golf courses – Riverside, Victoria, and Rundle Park – has declined from 2015 to 2019.

To generate “better cost recovery,” the city is considering assessing private sector interest in entering into leasing agreements for operating the golf courses while the land and capital assets would remain fully public.

PARKING FEES AT FIVE CITY ATTRACTIONS

The city is considering implementing paid parking at Emily Murphy Park, Rafter’s Landing, Muttart Conservatory, Fort Edmonton Park, and TELUS World of Science in spring 2022.

For parks located in the river valley and not associated with an attraction there would be a two-hour grace free period for paid parking, the city said.

Additionally, paid parking at Hawrelak Park is being considered for 2026 once the green space undergoes its rehabilitation project.

The city has not provided details as to how much parking rates would be.

REDUCING RECREATION AND CULTURAL PROGRAMMING OFFERINGS

According to the city, attendance for programs since 2015 has declined by 20 per cent while the average number of program hours only declined only by nine per cent.

Within the Reimagine Services framework, the city would consider reducing or eliminating the amount of registered recreation and cultural programming it delivers where costs are not being recovered. In addition, the city is considering using third-party providers for some programming to help lower costs.

The city would also consider reviewing current programing offered at single-purpose recreation facilities to “improve financial performance” that could lead to a “reduction in the amount of subsidized rental time and programs available.”

If construction on the Lewis Farms Community Recreation Centre moves forward, the city said in the Reimagine Services shortlist that the city would look for a third-party to operate the facility while the municipality would retain ownership of the building.

Recreation centres may also see self-service payment kiosks, starting with Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre in late 2022.

“Administration anticipates this new approach will offer a more streamlined customer experience and reduce workforce costs.”

Additional locations where self-service kiosks could be introduced at would be identified in “future years.”

FIREFIGHTER RESPONSE SERVICES COULD BE CHANGED

The city is considering changing the level of service firefighters perform when it comes to pre-hospital medical care.

In Alberta, there are five levels of service for pre-hospital medical care spanning a spectrum from least intrusive standard first aid to most intensive in the form of advanced care paramedic.

According to the city, pre-hospital medical care is a “voluntary partnership” that now makes up 70 per cent of calls Edmonton fire responds to. Of those, 24 per cent are non-urgent calls where firefighters are not required to respond.

In the Reimagine Services report, the city said it would work closely with Alberta Health Services to divert firefighters from responding to non-urgent medical calls.

Additionally, the report says that the city could generate cost-savings by replacing two recently added pumper trucks to downtown Station 1 and Station 5 with smaller units and reduced staff to respond to medial calls in an SUV or smaller vehicle.

CITY COULD DECREASE NUMBER OF LEASES FOR NON-FOR-PROFIT GROUPS

Another potential cost-saving identified was reviewing the number of non-for-profit leases the city offers in municipal spaces.

“There is an opportunity for the city to either reduce the space provided to non-for-profits or to increase recoveries on existing leases,” the report said.

The city would consider rent, utilities, maintenance costs, and capital investment levels after a review of current non-for-profit leases.