Barron doesn”™t want roadblocks in path of skate park proposal

Proponent Staci Barron wants to see ramped up efforts to make a skate park facility here a reality in a few years.

On Dec. 14, Barron questioned Centre Wellington council’s removal of skate park funding from the 2017 capital forecast and moving it to 2018.

“I speak to you today with a heavy heart … as a mom and as a community leader, (I am) deeply disappointed that council has apparently moved the skate park project to the 2018 budget year,” said Barron, who considers the project “at risk due to election cycles and staff turnover.”

She indicated the committee has raised $29,500 of its $150,000 community commitment and intends to raise the remainder before the 2017 deadline.

“How do you expect the clubs and the community to donate beyond their tax dollars for assets, but pull the rug out from under them, midway through fundraising?”

Barron contended council’s decision to “nonchalantly move community projects” with no consultation, makes it impossible to fundraise in an ethical manner.

“As a larger community, our children are taught to volunteer … and yet they are being met with taxpayer-funded public officials who make commitments that they don’t want to keep,” Barron stated.

“I believe you are breeding disengagement, apathy and cynicism about the political process for the youth of Centre Wellington and this generation of community leaders.

“It appears that if you don’t have a disability, are not a senior citizen, don’t play hockey or a team sport, or have exceeded the age of seven, you are now required to fundraise for your extracurricular activity in Centre Wellington.”

She said she believes that’s the message being sent to the 50 youths who have invested their time, money and energy pitching the skate park  project to garner donations.

Barron told councillors, “The message you are sending is that they don’t matter.” She contended “there will always be a fiscal crisis in Centre Wellington, however you have made commitments to your taxpayers … and I respectfully request the skate park be put back into the 2017 budget under our existing partnership agreement so that we may continue our successful campaign to raise our end of the budget.”

Councillor Kirk McElwain stated investing in the community is not just all about roads and bridges.

“I was under the impression we were going to check to see how fundraising was versus delaying this yet another year,” said McElwain.

Councillor Mary Lloyd said the information presented in budget discussions was that the amount of money generated through fundraising was “significantly lower” than the amount indicated by Barron on Dec. 14.

Lloyd then pointed to the project in Harper Park at the north end of Fergus where young people and their families became involved to create a BMX park. She said the most expensive cost to the township was to install temporary fencing to segregate the sensitive ecological area.

Lloyd considered it a success story “where young people and their families came together to build a place to play.” She added that project had very little impact financially on the township.

Councillor Steven VanLeeuwen said moving the skate park to 2018 was not an easy decision.

“It was not something we flippantly threw off to the side,” VanLeeuwen said, adding he struggled with the idea of building more infrastructure to be maintained “at a time when we have roads and bridges crumbling.”

He said, “Unfortunately, I’m of the strong opinion that we have to push some of these items off even further … and ask can we build even more infrastructure?”

Barron asked if VanLeeuwen was saying the township “partnership arrangements with community leaders means nothing.”

Mayor Kelly Linton said “every year we take the township’s priorities very seriously – no easy decisions are made.” Linton indicated the township remains committed to providing matching funds for the skate park.

“I don’t think we are saying we don’t appreciate the need for something like this,” the mayor said.

“We are having a difficulty with the price tag … and dealing with that price tag right now.”

Linton suggested if something more economically feasible was presented, the township would move in that direction.

“Right now, $150,000 of taxpayer money is a lot to ask for,” he said.

Councillor Stephen Kitras said when council made the decision to defer the skate park “we were told you had raised $3,000. That was the information we had, because we did not think it would be feasible for you to raise $150,000.”

He added, “if you are saying you can put a park together for $60,000 … because you say you have $30,000 now, that would be a different proposal and we might look at that.”

Barron stated if the group was unable to raise the $150,000 minimum by 2017, “it’s our funeral.”

Managing director of community services Brian Detzler said there needs to be a clarification about promises of land versus actual location.

He said staff agree there is a need for increased skateboard/BMX opportunities in the Elora community but “no actual location has been agreed to at this time.”

Councillor Don Fisher asked whether the land is considered part of the $150,000 contribution by the township.

CAO Andy Goldie said any land would be considered free as it is owned by the township. The $150,000 is a capital investment. Goldie also noted there was already $25,000 committed by the municipality prior to the budget, meaning the township would be committing at least $175,000.

Fisher said he believed council might be able to expedite a smaller, less costly project.

“I think the $150,000 was the holdup for council because we didn’t think the group would be able to raise matching funds in time,” he said.

If the group was willing to go smaller, there might be something the township could do in 2017, Fisher said.

Council was told part of the higher cost of the project involved creating something aesthetically pleasing to the Elora community.

Barron added, “I’m not really interested putting in a lackadaisical endeavour in Elora.”

Lloyd commented “we don’t have a machine where we are printing dollars out back … there is a desire for us to have lovely neighbourhoods … but if we have three bridges out in a portion of our municipality causing people to take a trip to Arthur to come to Fergus … that is unacceptable.”

“We need to have these roads and bridges open and from my perspective, having $150,000 we can move from a parks and recreation item to an area considered critical.”

She stressed, “I am not against young people, it has to do with infrastructure crumbling right now that is causing hardship on residents who have been extremely patient … but now we need to do something for them.”

Barron said that from the concept design to the Trillium submission, the total cost for the skate park project would be $491,000 – “That is our dream.”

VanLeeuwen said when one talks that amount, “it is a very high cost structure in the municipality. We need to take care of what is essential.”

Barron said she understood  part of the intent of the township’s 2% capital levy was to address infrastructure without putting other projects at risk.

“What you are saying today is that I not only have to pay an extra 2%, but any additional assets for parks is now gone also,” she said.

Kitras commented “I’m going to be frank with you. You have to be more modest about what you want to start with … then we can work with you.”

Barron maintained the group was aiming to get grants to match the township’s $150,000 contribution … plus the $30,000 already raised, which means “we only have to raise another $50,000 from the community.”

“But that’s a big if,” Lloyd said, noting it might be nice to assume the grants are a guarantee, but they are not.

Council decided to have the skate park project remain in the 2018 forecast.