City debates beefing parks, playground funding in future budgets

By Tyler Marr
September 14, 2018 - 5:00pm Updated: September 14, 2018 - 5:47pm

A request from one city councillor for additional playground equipment at a park in his ward snowballed into a debate around heightening funding priorities for city parks overall.

Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky introduced a motion seeking a report detailing the feasibility for more equipment in the playground along Southwood Drive in the 2019 budget. He said a number of residents, specifically parents and young families, have approached him asking for more play pieces.

“Just add a teeter-totter and a swing. Those aren’t big expensive ones,” he said, understanding something such as a spray park is out of the question, for now.

Nowoselsky hinted at other creative ways to add amenities.

“When we are moving dirt from another city pile, we can pile a pile of dirt there and build a slide hill,” he suggested. “If you have to move the dirt, why not get a second advantage and let the kids have a small hill to slide on.”

Though he sympathized with the request, Blake Edwards worried approving the request would take council “down a slippery slope.”

“Because if we approve the Southwood Drive park, I have got three or four that I would like considered,” the Ward 6 councillor said.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski echoed these comments and wanted to take a broader look at playgrounds in the city, expressing support to establish long-term priorities for all parks and playgrounds in the city.

Mayor Greg Dionne, however, said this is a demand that comes forward quite often and said the Community Services department is well aware of the funding they need. To address the high cost of equipment, he suggested opening up the option for sponsorship, similar to what is done for benches.

Director of Community Services Jody Boulet explained how the city’s new parks manager is completing an inspection of the current park equipment and will compile a report to determine priorities. Further, he said the department operates on a mere $20,000 annually for park and playground maintenance, which is typically used for minor surface repairs.

“It is a start but it does not go to the point of us going to replace,” he said.

With budget talks already transpiring behind the scenes, Boulet wasn’t confident a report on the subject could make its way to the table this fall. He suggested 2020 as a more acceptable timetable.

“[Playground replacement] is similar to fleet [maitence]. [A funding model] needs to be built properly so [the money] is there when we need it,” he said. 

Lawmakers were taken back by the minimal funding in place and moved to support a report on the steps and costs needed to improve all parks in the city for budget discussions.

 

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