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REPORTING · 13th May 2015
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council received a presentation from the President of the Kildala Parent Advisory Council, Kimberly Wasyleski, on Monday, May 4th. She was there to inform Council of the Kildala Playground Project.

“The Kildala Parent Advisory Council, along with the Kildala Administration, have been working endlessly to raise funds for some new playground equipment for our children. We recognise the importance of play and the emotional and social development of students. Play is an important component in providing students with a well-rounded learning environment. Presently, we feel that the play equipment available at Kildala Elementary School does not have play areas that address the needs of our 220+ students,” said Wasyleski.

She explained to Council they were close to meeting the goal and would need a little bit more to get the new playground, and the children need the play area now and not in the distant future.

She showed the Council what the current playground looked like, and what they would like to purchase for the students. Wasyleski told the Council the older playground was small and out of date, and the new playground was much safe, and larger. She pointed out the circular nature of the playground would keep children moving and active.

The PAC budgeted 81,000 to replace the playground and have done a lot of fundraising and now need only $23,299 to complete the goal.

“Once the playground is installed, it becomes school district property and maintenance will be taken over by the School District,” said Wasyleski.

She explained the school and the PAC have been putting a lot of effort into raising funds for the playground and she thanked everyone who has made a donation so far.

Wasyleski expressed while they have applied for grants, most of the organization which give out the grants require the recipient to be a charitable organization or do not fund brick and mortar projects.

She stated the playground would benefit the children, as well as the Child Development Centre, who run preschool and out of school care and must apply for a variance permit in order to use the outdated equipment.

She asked Council to consider that Kildala Elementary School has several programs in place, including Strong Start, Breakfast Club, Dash and an Unofficial Lunch Program. She stated Kildala was a school with a lower social economic status. She was impressed with the family’s contribution to the playground.

“Our endless hours of hard work and support show that this playground is what our families want,” said Wasyleski. “With a new playground, our students can have pride in their playground, their school, there neighbourhood and hopefully themselves.”

She asked Council to contribute to the playground.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if the playground was easily accessible to the Kildala Neighbourhood and if it would be unlocked 24 hours a day. He was told this was correct. Wasyleski told him it would be right in front of the school so it would be close to the parking lot, sidewalks and lighting. It would be accessible for the whole community.

There were no further questions so Wasyleski sat down and the meeting continued. Later in the meeting, the request came up under reports.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to contribute up to $20,000 towards the project. “I know that this sets quite a bit of a precedence but given the location of where this playground is located in the Kildala Neighbourhood and it will be accessible to people outside of school hours, I support it,” said Feldhoff.

He said he is concerned about the Riverlodge playground and he would rather see this one go ahead. He complimented the work which has been accomplished by the PAC and the different parties. He added they should be one of them.

“In theory, the Schools should be doing all this but the reality is, whether its hospitals or schools or other fronts, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get things done,” said Feldhoff.

He added if they cannot have the park on Wozney Street, he would like to see they are grassed.

Councillor Claire Rattee expressed she was concerned with the motion. She was in favour of the playground but pointed out the Council does not have any policies in place which allows them to contribute to the request.

“I’m concerned it might set a precedent that we might not be able to keep up with,” said Rattee. “Especially when we have a play structure that is the District’s property that we are held liable for currently that needs to be replaced. The General Consensus from staff is that we need to do it soon.”

She said Wasyleski had talked about a grant which had been discontinued and suggested if there was a way to lobby the government to bring back the grant which had been requested. She also suggested they look into the School Districts responsibilities for paying for equipment.

“It’s not that I’m not in support of it, I just would prefer to have some information to things of that nature and other ways we can contribute simply because I am concerned that we have playgrounds we need to fix,” said Rattee.

Councillor Mary Murphy expressed this looked like an amazing project and it was tugging at their heart strings. She stated things were getting difficult because the government was piling their responsibilities onto municipalities and organizations who were not stepping forward to help out on these projects.

“It puts us in a tough situation because we don’t have policies and procedures as was stated. We also don’t have guidelines to deal with this sort of thing and it opens up all sorts of implications for us,” said Murphy.

She said she was surprised there were not grants available for the playground. She stated there were a lot of projects which were moving forward and grants for things like the playground. She added she wanted to support the project but it was difficult.

Mayor Phil Germuth put forth a suggestion to table the motion so they could see if there are any grants. Goffinet pointed out they were responsible for their own playgrounds and this would be coming up later in the meeting. He said this was a separate and worthwhile endeavor.

Goffinet asked administration if they have already set a precedence by putting money into upgrading the sports court at Mount Elizabeth Secondary School. He said the project to upgrade the court was comparable to this one. He asked how much money the District put towards the Sports Court. He was told it was $36,000, and the schools had raised about three quarters of the funds.

Rattee asked about one of the upcoming reports would occur later in the meeting, the Replacement of the Riverlodge Play Structure. She said it would cost $55,000 to remove and replace the play structure at Riverlodge and asked if they could work with the Kildala PAC to help them get a better price. She was told the two playgrounds at Riverlodge would be replaced with one and the quotes were based on previous playgrounds they have installed.

Head of the Leisure Services Department, Martin Gould told her the quotes for the Kildala Playground came from one of the sources the District uses to buy playgrounds. Normally, the District put the project out for bids and then figure out the best way to move forward from there. The process which the district uses to put in a playground was explained to Rattee.

Rattee suggested there might be a way to get the costs down. She was told by Gould they have talked about working together to reduce the shipping costs if they use the same companies at the same time.

Councillor Edwin Empinado said he had lots of concerns following the discussions. He said there were policies to follow and there were no recommendations by staff. He made a tabling motion to receive the administration’s comments.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff expressed he was opposed to the tabling motion. The motion was to provide up to $20,000 and if there was a way to reduce the cost and if there were extra funds from the Bull-O-Rama, they would not have to give so much. He pointed out Council has contributed to the soccer fields and the High School Track and Tennis Court.

“These are clear benefits to the community at large. They weren’t just benefits for the school. I think we have enough information, we don’t have to table this. I think we just have to make the choice, and we can afford it,” said Feldhoff.

He said they could afford it because of, ‘sadly,’ the circumstances of the last few months.

Germuth agreed he supported both the project and the tabling motion. He wanted to know if there were any options to bring the cost down. If there were not, he would support the motion to give the project the money in two weeks.

Rattee stated this was new to her so she was unaware of the precedents created in the past. She stated this is similar to items which Feldhoff has tabled in the past to await staff reports, such as the fire hall generator.

“It still is taxpayer money that we’re spending here so it’s best to see if there is any way we could cut costs, both for ourselves and them, just to be safe and clear and maybe if there was some way to lobby the government to bring that grant back because it would be very beneficial to us but all of BC,” said Rattee.

Goffinet agreed with Feldhoff but explained the tabling motion was not to back away from the commitment but to refine it. He hoped to have it back within two weeks and hoped to have it back quickly. Empinado agreed.

The tabling motion was called and carried. Councillor Feldhoff was opposed.