Coun. Claire Moglove admits reducing the frequency of grass cutting in neighbourhood parks and tot lots was “a mistake” which council will correct.
Grass growing more than a foot long in some parks prompted outrage from several residents, who were angry the city cut back grass mowing from once every two weeks to just two times per season.
Council made the decision to reduce grass cutting during March’s budget planning in order to cut $26,000 out of the parks and recreation budget.
“I think I voted in favour of this cut, but I don’t have any hesitation to support a move back to regular cutting,” said Moglove at Tuesday night’s council meeting. “In hindsight I believe it was a mistake and I’m happy to correct a mistake.”
City Hall received numerous complaints from the public after their neighbourhood parks were left neglected.
“The reduction in service prompted significant community concern with respect to aesthetics, health and safety of these areas,” said City Manager Andy Laidlaw.
He said part of the problem was “unusually vigorous grass growth this spring that was not anticipated.”
To correct the problem, Laidlaw suggested $20,000 be moved from the city’s surplus this year to the parks and recreation budget.
Moglove disagreed with the recommendation, saying it would negate the decision, to reduce the parks and rec budget, that was made during financial planning.
“With an operating budget of $34 million, there’s got to be a way to find $20,000 without undoing the cuts we made,” she said. “It goes against the grain to take it from the surplus, I think we have to look farther.”
Coun. Ziggy Stewart said anger over parks not being mowed demonstrates just how tough it is for council to make budget cuts while balancing quality of life for citizens.
“We were tasked with a job to get the budget back under control and obviously this $20,000 decision is not the right decision and I can accept that,” said Stewart. “Obviously the public wants this but as we go along, costs are escalating all over the place, something eventually has to fall off the table.
“A simple $20,000 decision and look at the furor it created. Good luck next year.”
In the end, the issue was referred back to city staff for a another report outlining other areas in the budget where the money could come from.
Although the funding source is still unknown, grass cutting in neighbourhood parks and tot lots was underway last week.