Farmer’s market gets federal money, city plans to invest in stocks

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Committee assured “more surprises” in the long-delayed renovation.

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The Saskatoon City Council’s Planning, Development and Community Services Committee met on Monday, with a number of items still to be discussed later this week after a number of presentations and lengthy discussions. The city’s finance committee also heard a detailed discussion of council’s role in deciding sanitation facilities in municipal buildings and considered a proposal to hire a consultant to examine the possibility of the city of Saskatoon undertaking a equity investment.

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FARMERS MARKET

The years-long quest to “liven up” the Riversdale Farmer’s Market building appears to be coming to an end. The committee approved a plan by city staff to take a $750,000 grant offered by the federal government to help with renovations to the structure, intended to put it in place for Ideas Inc. to operate there. The committee also recommended that council redirect an amount equivalent to the federal grant from the project budget toward further improvements to the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and the installation of a vestibule at the main entrance. . These are meant to reduce heat loss in the winter and create a more inviting entrance.

The newly renovated market is expected to open in 2023. County. David Kirton (Ward 3) asked City Manager Lynn Lacroix about the timeline, noting frequent delays since the building closed for roof repairs in 2019. Lacroix assured him that there would be “ no more surprises” regarding the building needing more work.

TOILET POLICY

Public debate flowed freely earlier this year after it was revealed that the new downtown branch of the Saskatoon Public Library (SPL) will have gender-neutral restrooms with no urinals. It has seen a flood of inquiries to the council from the public, amid concerns that the city may consider removing urinals in all new facilities, such as the proposed downtown arena.

In March County. Bev Dubois (Ward 9) has asked city staff to release a report detailing current and future restroom design standards, clearly stating the city’s role in mandating restroom design in facilities controlled by statutory boards like the SPL or controlled companies, such as SaskTel Centre.

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Angela Gardiner, the city’s general manager of utilities and environment, told the committee that the minimum standards set by the National Building Code of Canada are the number one consideration when it comes to washrooms in municipal buildings. The city doesn’t set other standards, she said, but leaves it up to architects, engineers and building owners or operators to sort out.

While the city might have more input for a building it owns — like the downtown arena — the new library will be 100% owned by SPL, which is a separate legal entity from the city. So the city of Saskatoon has no right to direct how it builds its toilets.

MUNICIPAL INVESTMENTS

The City of Saskatoon is currently limited to investing only in bonds. In recent years, the portfolio has started to underperform inflation. This led city staff to ask the council to consider hiring a consultant to devise a strategy to invest at least some money in stocks looking for better returns. Clae Hack, the city’s chief financial officer, said a move to equities would likely lead to greater portfolio volatility in the short term, but could see the city make more money in the long term. A city staff report notes that Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat are already investing in stocks and are all performing significantly better than Saskatoon.

The committee recommended that council spend $50,000 to hire a consultant to come up with various strategies on how best for the city to allocate its funds between bonds, stocks and cash.

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