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Councillors still split on some spending

by Evan Matthews |

At its Feb. 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, administration provided council with information on baseball diamond netting ($40,000), a water well generator ($150,000), a hydrovac ($700,000), and a diesel generator for the water well building ($170,000).

Council will make final decisions at its Feb. 20 council meeting.

Director of Operations Bruce Thompson told council the plan would be to construct a net system between the outfield of diamond B and diamond C.

The aim is to improve safety, Thompson said, and reduce the risk to spectators and participants on diamond C from baseballs. He said foul balls from the adjacent diamond B often reach the area.

“We’ve had a number of near misses,” said Thompson. “In particular, in 2017, we had a base runner struck in the head by a foul ball, while running between home plate and first.”

Comparing baseball to golf, Thompson said the technology has come a long way, and the ball off the bat is travelling farther and faster.

A report written by Thompson says construction includes telephone pole uprights and affixing drape netting system, which can be pulled into place as a protective screen during play.

ATCO has already donated and delivered the telephone pole uprights, according to Thompson.

Councillor Scott Wilson suggested lining the fence along Bonhomme Street with netting, too, saying home runs also cause concern along the roadway.

Not everyone was in favour. Councillor Bert Journault said, “he didn’t like it,” for its unsightliness. He suggested the sport correct itself by having athletes switch to wooden bats to reduce ball speed and distance, as opposed to installing netting.

Councillor Paul Butler asked about reconfiguring the diamonds, to which Thompson said preliminary conversations have taken place. Thompson said any reconfiguration wouldn’t take place until 2019 at the earliest, and the netting would be the municipality’s safety measure in the meantime.

A new workhorse

Thompson also pitched to council the need to replace the municipality’s “workhorse.” He compared the hydrovac to the firefighters’ “main engine,” and said it was a must-own.

A hydrovac is used to flush the extents of the sanitary and storm sewer collection systems annually and as needed, according to a report written by Thompson. It allows for safely digging shallow into the ground while working near hazardous features such as power and gas lines, and is used in emergency situations in flooding.

While the hydrovac isn’t used all the time, CAO Mark Fercho said when it’s needed, the equipment is needed immediately and it needs to work.

Operations looked at co-purchasing a hydrovac with a neighbouring municipality, but Thompson said it’s a situation where each municipality will want its own. In a case where potentially both municipalities need the hydrovac, which municipality got it would become a difficult decision, he said. Meaning, inevitably, one municipality would be letting down its taxpayers in a time of need.

Jasper’s current hydrovac is a 1997 Ford Louisville and is known to be unreliable at best, according to municipal officials. 

Thompson’s report states the old Louisville has reached the end of its service life, and lists the rental unit over the past two years at a cost of $8,000 per month.

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