Robron Park surplus rolled into extra lights

Council heard at its Monday meeting that the project is running a surplus of $250,000

Robron Park is getting brighter thanks to the artificial turf field running under budget.

Council heard at its Monday meeting that the project is running a surplus of $250,000.

“The majority of unknown sub-surface conditions (have) now been encountered and addressed,” said Jason Hartley, city’s capital works manager. “As a result, the total project cost is now estimated at $2.36 million, against the approved budget of $2.62 million.”

That left council with a big decision to make – what to do with the extra money.

City staff floated three options – return the extra funds to a savings account, pave the Merecroft Road parking lot next to Robron Park, or install new pathway lighting around the park.

Council, with the exception of Coun. Larry Samson, opted for the lighting after hearing from city staff.

Hartley said option two, the parking lot, could be done at any time as a stand-alone at the same price, whereas the underground wiring and conduits for pathway lighting would be more expensive to do once construction on the turf field wraps up.

“The incremental cost increase to do this work at a later date would probably be in the range of 20 to 30 per cent given the disruption that would occur and the remediation required to replace the new sidewalks and curbings,” said Hartley who noted that it will cost the city $225,000 to do the pathway lighting now while the ground is still dug up.

But Coun. Larry Samson said he’d prefer the money be used elsewhere.

“I’ve never heard of a need for this lighted pathway, I mean I haven’t heard any citizens come forward,” Samson said. “I believe the field is also under this lighting, would this not give some ambient lighting to this pathway?”

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the field lighting would help light up the park but only when the field is open. He said pathway lighting would also likely deter vandalism.

Still, Samson said the majority of people will typically only be in the park at night if the field is open and said he’d prefer the money be spent on the parking lot upgrades or the Big Rock Boat Ramp improvement project.

Mayor Andy Adams disagreed and said the lighting, which would line the pathway between the Merecroft and Birch street parking lots will increase security.

“Even with this addition, the project will come in under budget and the pathway lighting system was always originally contemplated in the Robron Park Master Plan,” Adams said. “If we’re looking for extended field users at the turf field, and these could be younger children, getting into November when it’s getting dark early, to have a safer route to get to the Birch Street and Merecroft parking lots is a safety issue worth addressing now, rather than later.”

Coun. Ron Kerr concurred.

“I agree it makes sense to do it and it is under budget,” Kerr said. “I think it allows the park to be safer and used on a longer basis.”

The lights are just part of council’s larger plan to upgrade all of Robron Park. Arguably the largest component of the project is the $2.27 million artificial turf field which is in the midst of construction and is expected to be complete by mid-November.