It was inevitable the City of Red Deer would move to bring planning services under its own roof at City Hall.
Perhaps in 1995, when the province abolished regional planning commissions – including Red Deer's – there was a sound argument for the City to farm out its planning services to an outside agency.
For the next 15 years the City of Red Deer was the largest municipality in the region relying on the expertise of Parkland Community Planning Services (PCPS). The other 19 Central Alberta communities benefited financially as the City's partnership lowered the overall planning expenditures through the sharing of overhead costs.
But after a decade and a half, a period that has seen booming growth in the City, Red Deer had to decide whether it simply outgrew its relationship with (PCPS).
The answer is a resounding yes. By moving forward as it did last week by opting to create an in-house planning department the City and its senior management team is making another bold step to maturity, much as it did this spring when City Manager Craig Curtis wisely opted to initiate a move that senior staff should no longer be voting members on the Municipal Planning Commission.
In making the latest move the City of Red Deer and its citizens will see greater operational efficiency and significant cost savings.
By eliminating the services of PCPS the City will save $292,338 in the first year of operation, and more than $77,316 and $108,547 in years two and three when compared to a new proposal offered by PCPS.
However, what is equally important is that having the planning department at City Hall will offer better customer service for Red Deer citizens. Red Deerians will at last be in a position where the answers to all their planning questions will be under one roof. As the City continues its organizational review there is an opportunity now for further staff training into planning areas that achieve greater flexibility for service at a cost which in the end will be more than reasonable.
There is a serious concern, however, that the City's move will have adverse implications for the future of PCPS, which of course will have an equally serious impact on the other 19 municipalities that rely on PCPS's services.
This was noted both by the City of Red Deer, and PCPS in a May 14 letter to council.
However, City council wisely chose not to yield on what might be for PCPS and its remaining partners.
Red Deer's call for change for its own progress should simply be notice for others to find a better way for their own future.