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REPORTING · 16th April 2015
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council held a discussion on outstanding budget items on Monday, April 13th, one of the items they discussed was the Playground at the Riverlodge Recreation Centre.

The Playground came up last year, in March, when it was explained to Council these playgrounds were existing, but not conforming to the CSA Standards. If anything on the Playground needed to be repaired, the playground would have to be torn down and brought up to the code. For this playground, the cost was estimated at $55,000

Councillor Claire Rattee wanted to know if this playground was safe or not.

“It is a play structure that is approaching twenty years of life. It is a wooden structure. It is currently existing non-conforming so if we make any sort of modification or updates to it because of rotten wood or whatever, we basically have to redo the whole structure because the current standards would require that,” said Shaun O’Neill.

He told Council there were two play structures at Riverlodge and they would be replaced with one structure. The Playgrounds are used at special events, such as Canada Day. According to O’Neill, they see the most use when the ball fields are in use.

“We’re ok, legally, because they are existing non-conforming, but if we do make any changes, they have to be brought up to current standards,” said O’Neill.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated the playgrounds were strategically placed in the community and the playground was well used. She was in favour of spending the money.

Councillor Larry Walker expressed there were three other locations where playgrounds were being located, one at the head of the trail in the Wakita Neighbourhood, one in the Wakita Neighbourhood and one at Kildala School. He asked staff where they think a playground was the most needed.

“I’m not against spending money on Playground Equipment,” said Walker. “I’m not sure this is the place it should be spent at this point in time.”

O’Neill said he would get back to them, reminding Council the structures were existing, non-conforming.

Mayor Phil Germuth asked if they would last another year, the response was they were not going to fall down.

Councillor Rob Goffinet reminded Council: “On a playground that is strategically sighted to be used by every child in town because we draw them there, strategically several times a year, and then scrimp money, one accident on a playground that is not totally up to standard could be enormous. $55,000 to get your playground that you draw children purposely […] is a good $55,000 well spent. It’s a whole concept of risk and keeping things as good a quality for children as possible.”

Rattee wanted further information on the other playgrounds. She thought they could split the cost into other areas because the money to replace the playground could be split into two.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a tabling motion. “Everything’s important in our community and let’s put things into perspective. I see things a little differently than Councillor Goffinet with respect to that particular park,” said Feldhoff.

He told Council someone wanted the park on Wozney Street. he wanted a report to Council before they started spending money.

Murphy disagreed: “The words used were non-conforming, not safe. I don’t know what part of we’re going to wait for a report when we’re being told by staff that it’s non-conforming and it’s not safe and they have to do something about it. It’s a wooden structure.”

“I heard the word: that it is legal,” argued Feldhoff. “It is legal.”

Walker suggested tearing the playground down and leaving it as a gravel play area. Goffinet suggested recirculating the report from March 2014. Councillor Edwin Empinado said he was concerned with safety and conforming to the standards.

The tabling motion was called and carried. O’Neill promised a detailed report with all the areas which needed consideration. Empinado asked him to bring back the slides which show why the playgrounds needed to be replaced.

Goffinet reminded them the playground is a risk and liability issue. He told Council they cannot put these concerns aside by prioritizing non existing playgrounds. He said they should not be removing the playgrounds children are playing on now in exchange for something new.

Feldhoff compared the playground to a new car. They have a lot of safety features. However, older cars do not have those safety features, may not be compliant but are still legal.

“One would argue it’s not as safe as a new one but it’s still safe to drive it on the road. I see the playground similar to that, it’s an older playground,” said Feldhoff.

Germuth commented it was a good analogy.