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Council approves slide, mats

 

by Evan Matthews | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

Jasper councillors approved a number of capital expenses held back from the budget process in December, including the $600,000+ replacement of the aquatic centre’s water slide.

The municipality applied for a Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) grant just over a month ago to cover the cost, and is waiting on Alberta Culture and Tourism to see if the grant will be awarded, according to Chief Administrative Officer Mark Fercho.

Most of council agreed the community needs a water slide.

“It’s a wonderful time, to go with the children to connect with other families,” said Councillor Jenna McGrath. “I’ve had many conversations with little people, and community members about this. What I’m hearing, without going to a public consultation process, is that they’re in full support of the replacement.”

While Mayor Richard Ireland “originally gasped” at the $600,000 price tag, after a tour of the facilities, he questioned whether or not that would be enough for full replacement.

“I’d rather start with a realistic budget rather than have administration come back and say… now it’s $700,000,” said Ireland. 

Director of culture and recreation Yvonne McNabb assured council that administration has erred on the side of caution with a high estimate and $600,000 will be enough.

Council voted in favour of replacing the fitness centre’s climbing mats for $35,000.

Councillor Scott Wilson said after looking into the history of the wall, the climbing association did significant fundraising to have it installed, and so the municipality did not incur all of the cost.

“These are paying users. We need proper equipment for them,” said Coun. Wilson.

Wilson said the mats purchased at the time were incorrect and inadequate.

Coun. McGrath echoed Wilson, and added the climbing association is trying to minimize cost to the municipality this time around, too.

“In recent conversations with a climbing association member, another quote came in around the $30,000 mark,” said Coun. McGrath. “We can definitely cover the cost of adequate mats.”

McGrath said the municipality at one point decided on the need for a climbing wall, now safety needs to be a priority.

Ireland brought up other cases, such as the tennis courts (and club), where the associated group applies for grant money for improvements on its own behalf.

McNabb explained to council that because the climbing association is not a registered non-profit, the group is unable to apply for grant funding.

“It’s easy when somebody has money through a grant to build something… But we built about half of what we needed to (in terms of cost),” said Councillor Paul Butler. “To have a climbing wall we need mats, and if we’re going to be a community with a climbing wall we have to vote in favour of this. If we don’t, we’re saying we likely won’t have a climbing wall. There comes a point where maybe some facilities just aren’t appropriate for municipalities to be providing because they’re really risky. A previous council decided this, so we have to do it.”

Council also opted to replace the reception desk at the activity centre $25,000.

“After taking the tour, I see the need for replacement,” said Councillor Helen Kelleher-Empey.

The curling rink will receive a new dehumidifier. It is expected to cost $28,840.

“Our key problem (seasons) are spring and fall when the ice goes in and comes out,” says McNabb. “The dehumidifier is not just for bonspiels or the curling season. It would run all the time to keep humidity down.”

Coun. Rico Damota asked for clarification as to whether or not associated user groups had looked into alternative options, rather than having the cost fall to the municipality.

McNabb explained to council the request for an expenditure was listed as such, because the curling club has applied to CFEP for a grant related to the facility’s flooring. CFEP only allows one application per group, so the curling club chose the more costly project for its application.

Council voted in favour 4-2.

Coun. Journault said he wouldn’t support an expenditure that is used for only eight days a year.

The town should soon post a full-time position for arena operator and custodian, as councillors approved a $25,000 expense for 2018.

“What is the urgency to take this item out of the budget, and deal with it in the absence of the rest of the budget?” asked Mayor Ireland. “I don’t want council in the position where we have a process set out, but then there are individual requests that take away from that.”

Without the approved expense, the department would have had to advertise for a part-time job instead.

“What we’re seeking is someone who wants to make a full-time commitment,” said McNabb. “Hopefully, we entice someone who wants to stick around.”

Coun. Bert Journault said he was opposed to the expenditure.

“This position started as part-time many years ago. We had reduced the arena’s budget, bringing down taxpayers expense,” said Coun. Journault. “Now we’re asking for a full-time position, which comes with need to reside.  I don’t see it as necessary.”

Council voted in favour, 5-1, of listing the position as full-time.

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