Capital confusion at city hall

The Centennial Park improvement project is keeping in-line with the financial plan

There seems to be confusion on council surrounding the city’s plans for capital projects.

At a council meeting July 24, Mayor Walter Jakeway was upset council voted to go ahead this year with an application for a federal grant to improve Centennial Park because he said the project did not follow the 2012-2016 capital plan.

“So why bother doing a financial plan in the springtime and all of that effort when the Centennial Park playground isn’t shown until 2013,” Jakeway said at the meeting. “Why let a federal grant throw us off? There’s no point doing a financial or strategic plan if we’re not prepared to follow it.”

Jakeway’s comments were published in the Mirror Aug. 8.

A few days later, Coun. Larry Samson, liaison to the parks and recreation department, said he didn’t understand why the mayor made those comments.

Samson said the Centennial Park improvement project is keeping in-line with the financial plan council approved this spring.

“While we’re applying for the grant this year, the project would not be completed until next year which is in-line with the 2013 capital plan,” Samson said. “We apply for the grant this year and by the time it’s approved and we start construction, it wouldn’t be until 2013.”

He said council has budgeted $56,000 in the city’s 2013 capital plan for Centennial Park.

The project involves upgrading the practice tennis court and turning it into a multi-sport court as well as replacing the current playground with a natural playscape, which is aimed at free play, sensory discovery and helping kids form a connection to nature.

If the city’s application for a chunk of the federal government’s Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund is successful, the city would still need to cover 50 per cent of the project cost, which would be equal to roughly $225,000.

Coun. Andy Adams was supportive of applying for the grant, as the park serves vulnerable and at-risk children and youth.

“This is an area that is a mid-to-low income area (that) provides opportunities and is surrounded by a large residential area in the middle of town,” Adams said. “Centennial Park was in the five-year parks and recreation plan.”

But Coun. Ron Kerr sided with Jakeway’s line of thinking.

“I don’t believe in just supporting a program because the federal government comes along with a grant,” he said. “I don’t think this was on our list of projects this year.”

In the end, council elected to apply for the grant for Centennial Park as well for the Big Rock Boat Ramp upgrades, should there be a second intake of applications. Samson admitted that project would be fast-tracked if funding is made available: “In fact it’s the Big Rock Boat Ramp we’re moving ahead because it’s not scheduled until 2014 under the approved capital plan.”