311 funding increase turned down by council

A request to add a dozen more 311 employees was turned down Monday by Edmonton city council.

Council votes against cuts to litter pick-up and flower planting

Councillors Linda Sloan and Kerry Diotte look over documents during Monday's budget debate at Edmonton city hall. (CBC)

Edmonton city councillors turned down a request Monday to add a dozen more 311 operators, calling instead for the service to come under review.

Edmonton's 311 service handles about 1.8 million calls a year. That figure expected to jump by 200,000 in 2012, and city administration wanted $652,000 to hire extra staff so call wait times would not exceed 25 seconds.

Without that increase, councillors were told wait times could climb to one minute per call.

But the funding request did not sit well with councillors, who were stunned to learn last week that the cost of the service works out to $5 per call. Some of them argued the service isn't even that great. 

"Citizens should not have to call three, four or five times to get an answer," Coun. Linda Sloan said Monday.

"I just had one where someone called asking for my contact information and the person on the phone didn't know it," said Coun. Dave Loken.

Council overturns proposed 'beauty cuts'

Mayor Stephen Mandel said the city should shift its focus to making the city's website less complicated and more user-friendly.

"For a guy like me who's a ding-dong when it comes to those things, it's very frustrating," he said.

While councillors are trying to keep the 2012 tax increase to 4.5 per cent, they decided not to go through with a number of controversial cuts proposed by administration.

Council voted against cutting $504,000 from the budget for planting annual flowers and shrubs and decided to keep $300,000 for picking up litter along boulevards and arterial roads.

They also voted against a proposed $200,000 cut for winter trail maintenance.

Councillors also decided against trimming $960,000 from the transit budget.