Improvements to Centennial Park will go ahead despite objections from nearly half of council and from neighbours in the area.
Council approved awarding the project to Milestone Equipment Contracting, though cost estimates came in over budget.
Total costs were expected to be $572,298 while council has $461,000 set aside for Centennial Park.
Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, told council at Tuesday’s meeting that city staff can do the project for $451,104 by taking out concrete benches for an amphitheatre, not installing lighting and scrapping a gazebo at the entrance to the park. Milnthorp said the last two items could still be installed at a later date.
Coun. Larry Samson was in favour of going forward with the reduced scope of work so that the city can take advantage of a $225,000 federal grant that expires if it’s not spent before March 31, 2014.
“It’s a great project for one of our inner city parks,” Samson said. “This park means a lot to the kids who can’t make it down to the Sportsplex or who can’t make it down to Nunns Creek Park. This is an opportunity to spruce up this park.”
But Mayor Walter Jakeway said he’s received feedback from park users that the improvements the city is planning aren’t what they want.
“I’ve had several people from the neighbourhood contact me that don’t agree with what’s being done and I haven’t had anybody who says they agree so I don’t believe what we’re doing meets the neighbourhood’s needs,” Jakeway said.
The city did carry out a consultation period before deciding on the designs. The city hosted two public open houses, and consulted with several park user groups.
The result is designs for a park that will include improvements to the two tennis courts, a multi-sport court, and basketball hoops. The playground will be replaced with a natural playscape area that will feature a large wooden eagle nest structure, wooden cookie stepping stones, boulders for climbing, a water hand pump, and a cobblestone water channel with movable walls for building dams.
But Coun. Ron Kerr said despite the consultations, he too has been hearing negative feedback.
“I think something got messed up in this whole process and I think the traditional model of going through open houses and getting input from the neighbourhood, broke down somewhere along the line because what I’m hearing from the neighbourhood is this isn’t what they want and to me that is the goal,” Kerr said. “It’s not a community-wide park like the splash park, this is a park for that neighbourhood.”
Coun. Claire Moglove asked Milnthorp just how extensive the consultation process was.
Milthorp replied that the city gathered input through surveys at city facilities and from neighbourhood kids, stakeholders, child care providers, Success by 6, Grade 6 students from Phoenix middle school, the Rotary Club, the tennis club, and Friends of Centennial Park.
That was good enough for Moglove.
“You can’t please all the people all the time. You’re always going to get some people who do not agree,” Moglove said. “The consultation process on this particular park, in my view, was extensive.
“So unless we want to get 100 per cent buy-in from every single person in the neighbourhood – and that’s not possible – I will be supporting this project.”
Coun. Andy Adams, who said he felt council should have had more input into the designs of the park, especially with the pieces taken out of the project, noted the public open houses had an “extremely poor turnout” and people could only choose either option A or option B, nothing in between. Still, Adams said the reason he could not support the project was the fact it came in over budget.
“Centennial Park needs some upgrades…to me that’s not the issue,” Adams said. “The issue is…this had a budget and the design and construction is not living within the means of the budget. I think it needs to go back and be re-visited and work with what you’ve got.”
Council chose to go ahead with the project with Jakeway and councillors Adams and Kerr opposed.