City council says no to playing field - again I Question of the week

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
July 22nd, 2010

Presentations made by the members of the public took council to task over their lack of decision over the proposed multi-use playing field in City Park. Over 30 people crammed into Grand Forks City Council chambers on Monday night, July 19 to push the politicians to take a stand. In council’s last meeting a tied vote negated the motion, effectively defeating it. At Monday’s meeting the topic was brought back at the discretion of the mayor for another attempt to move it forward.   The anger in the room was palpable as many of the speakers expressed frustration with the lack of support from members of council for the playing field. They were irritated that complaints from seniors seemed to overwhelm the widespread community support for the field location. Problems with scheduling for combining the sports field with baseball at Dick Bartlett Park were raised from the audience. Among the audience were representatives for soccer and rugby clubs who hope to develop a full local league should they have a home for the sports.   Clint Faulkner, a member of the rugby club, said that the council’s waffling over this issue has caused the sports community to loose a year in the development of the field.   “My concern stems from the manner in which this council has deatl with a relative simple and straight-forward issue locatin a multi-use field at city park. Council has shown an apparent disregard for the children, parents, grandparents, and citizens of this community who support this resolution and who elected each of you to legislate based on the desires of the majority,” said Faulkner. “We’ve already lost nearly a year while this city council has vacillated back and forth and (demonstrated) anything but the decisiveness that this community expects and deserves from its public officials.”   Families are interested in the opportunities a sports field at City Park offers including the play area for young children, and the idea that proximity to the downtown area will support the businesses located there.   “I think the idea of bringing more activity and more pedestrian traffic into the downtown core has come up again and again as one of the clear connections to revitalizing small communities. I think a multi-use field is clearly going to add to the vitality of this community,” said Roly Russell, a community resident. “As a personal perspective, I’d love to be able to take my son to play soccer in City Park and not at Dick Bartlett where there’s no trees or shade. It would be great. It would contribute to keeping families in this community.”   When it came time to discuss the multi-use field location, Mayor Brian Taylor cautioned council that if the topic was brought forward to a vote, and not tabled to another meeting, that the subject could not come forward again for six months.   Councillor Michael Wirischagin, a strong supporter of the location, pushed forward with a motion to put the field in City Park. In past meetings, objections to the City Park location focused on the loss of trees, the size of the field, and the cost of the project. City staff have confirmed that the cost of the field will remain as estimated at $25,000 which was approved early in the year.   Once again the vote was split. Councillor Christine Thompson raised her concerns about the loss of trees, and the size of the proposed field. Councillor Chris Moslin brought up other options including working with the School District #51 to create a joint project on the Grand Forks Senior Secondary property.   “Unfortunately, I really hear the need for a multi-use field. I really would like to create a multi-use playing field for those sports. There is an unfinished building sitting behind the tennis courts at GFSS that could serve as showers, concession and storage that could be shared between the school district and the city. The long term solution is to jointly develop between the school district and the city a full scale facility for multi-use sports,” said Moslin.   Discussions with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to develop a recreation plan that includes funding support to the city for the region’s use of services have just begun according to Taylor. Taylor said that he wants to wait on new developments until a formal plan can be ready.   “My concern is that right now we need to talk to the regional district. They don’t contribute to any of the playing fields that surround the city. My feeling is that this decision should be taken in conjunction with a new recreation plan that recognizes that you the taxpayers of Grand Forks should not be footing the bill for all of the playing fields that our community provides. My reluctance to support the motion is that we’re just beginning a process that we’re forcing the regional district to the table to look at a shared cost of service. But that regional district involvement in the cost of our facilities would not likely include City Park,” said Taylor.   Both Councillors Robert and Wyers expressed support for the field and the opportunities to support tourism and the downtown business community. Wirischagin, the main promoter of the project over the last year, was visibly frustrated with the whole process and expressed his continued support for the location.   Despite the visible community support, council’s vote remained split and the motion was again negated and therefore defeated. The topic can be brought back to council in six months.   Question of the week: The topic of a playing field will likely come back to City Council in six months so now’s the time to let them know what you think about a multi-use playing field. Should it be at City Park? Should it be located at the schools? What about Dick Bartlett?  

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Categories: Politics