A playground has been approved for town-owned property in Beacon Hill and $40,000 raised by Lighthouse Christian Academy will be matched by the town.
That was the decision of councillors during their meeting Dec. 10, despite opposition from Mayor Susan Samson.
She initially voiced concern about placing something on the land behind the RCMP detachment building and beside Gospel Chapel.
“We were always told the fire department would go on that site,” she said. “Then the build happened and now we have a huge site. We’ve got a huge chunk of land, I don’t know what we want it for, but we’re going to limit what we can use it for.”
Ron Lebsack, director of leisure and protective services, answered the land doesn’t have access other than through a back alley. There’s also a town water main and water and sewer servicing for the protective services building along the north boundary. “Because there’s no access, it’s really isolated.” He suggested it could be used by the town for a green space, maintenance storage or tree farm. It can be tied in with the trail system on a pipeline right-of-way at the south side of the property.
“If it’s an orphan piece of property I want to ensure we make the very best use of it,” Samson reiterated. “I’m very concerned we have a big chunk of land and we’re going to start carving it up.”
However Councillor Sean McIntyre was delighted with the proposal. “We’ve got a local organization willing to help us build a park … I see this as a great thing, I think we should do it.”
“Locate the playground on property as close to the north side as possible,” said McIntyre. “This is a good opportunity to partner as they requested, match their funding and put in a place able to be used by them, on the basis there are no parks in the area and we don’t know when there will be. It’s something we should take advantage of.”
The park would be available for use by everyone, not just limited to the school’s students.
Lighthouse Christian Academy received $40,000 from an Alberta Lottery grant but must match that amount. It asked the town to provide the additional money through cash and in-kind services.
Lebsack’s recommendation was that the town provide landscaping and in-kind services valued at $15,000 but not provide $25,000 cash to bring the total contribution to $40,000.
The town will enter into an agreement where it will also become responsible for ongoing inspections and maintenance of the playground.
“We don’t want to set a precedent so we’re coming up with the matching portion all the time,” Lebsack told councillors.
“I don’t think we’re setting a precedent,” said Councillor Dale Plante. “We get a park where we don’t have one, the benefit of $40,000 and we’re partnering. We should be matching the full amount.”
Following Plante’s comments, Samson also cautioned about setting a precedent. She noted the town provided land and landscaping for the park beside Kindercare (kcs Association) but didn’t match money.
“If we’re going down this road and this is the way we’re building parks … we’re going to set a precedent and we’re never going to be able to turn down (future requests). We’re going to set ourselves up to be open every single time on every single park and green space.”
“If we’re sliding down the slippery slope of building parks, count me in,” McIntyre replied. “It’s not a terrible precedent to set. We’ve got to take into consideration the lack of services in this neighbourhood. It’s an opportunity I think we need to take advantage of.”
Plante added, “we love when other groups match our money”, referring to Lakeview Optimists getting a $125,000 grant for the skatepark by matching town money. “So why not when they bring the money.”
“Our concern is that any group can get a $125,000 CFEP (Community Facility Enhancement Program) grant but we won’t have the $125,000 to match it,” said Lebsack.
Councillor Rick Grimson made the motion to allow the playground to be built on town property and provide $25,000 in cash and $15,000 through in-kind services for the project. McIntyre, Plante, Grimson and Councillor Graham Parsons voted in favour while Samson was against. Councillors Laverne Asselstine and Ken MacVicar were absent from the meeting