20th July 2017- By Elaine Della-Mattia

City council unanimously supported a resolution Monday approving the use of $240,000 from the subdividers reserve fund to leverage Trillium funding for a splash park in Sault Ste. Marie.

The push has been on by a pair of city councillors to find the money necessary to create a first-class splash park in 2018 for city residents.

Ward 1 Coun. Paul Christian, who penned the resolution with Ward 2 councillor Susan Myers, said a Trillium grant could net the city up to $150,000.

Applications for the funding must be submitted by Oct. 25 and prior to that, the city must show that it has the remainder of the project funding in place before any grant is awarded.

Christian told city council that the sub-committee has about $60,000 committed to the project. This $240,000 would go a long way to meeting the Trillium application criteria, and if successful, the project could proceed with $450,000 as a phase one budget.

“We want an A-one splash pad, and that’s something everyone wants,” Christian told city council.

The subdividers reserve fund is created by developers who pay a fee in lieu of providing green space of park space in subdivisions. The money can be utilized for parks and recreation, including a splash pad, city treasurer Shelley Schell confirmed to council.

“If we miss this window, it will push back the splash pad indefinitely,” Christian urged.

While the application process is underway, the sub committee will also work on developing a fundraising plan and examine the options for the splash pad itself.

A splash pad or splash park is an area for water play that has no standing water. The nozzle spray system eliminates the need for a paid lifeguard and there is practically no risk of drowning. The showers and ground nozzles are often controlled by hand activated motion sensors, to run for a limited time. Equipment can be used by all ages and is also handicap accessible because they are at ground level.

Myers said the model the committee is looking at will have 22 splash and nozzle features people can access.

Council heard that one option may be to divide the project into two phases with the first phase the splash pad itself and the second phase the addition of ancillary buildings and additional amenities.

Initial costs of the projects, including all the amenities, was pegged at $575,000.

Mayor Christian Provenzano reiterated that he didn’t want a shortage of funding to affect the quality of the splash pad itself.

He said he wanted to see the project done right and be a first-class facility for the community to enjoy.

A few weeks ago, council received a report that said there was no capital budget money available to put toward the project but the subdivider’s reserve fund was identified as having about $300,000 of uncommitted money.

The splash park was originally identified as a potential Canada 150 legacy project but council quickly realized that it would take a least one year to align the total funding envelope and couldn’t be considered for that.

The Sault Star reported earlier that the Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie has offered up $20,000 to support the project, much less than the anticipated $200,000 which some members of city council had expected.

However, the Rotary Club had suggested that a splash park be created at Clergue Park, in the heart of the downtown and in close proximity to their annual Rotary Day event and activities in July.

Rotary officials wouldn’t say if the change of location impacted their decision but it’s widely speculated that the Bellevue Park site played a role on the donation to the project. They said the lower dollar support was weighed by the club in light of the city’s economic picture.

City council had voted unanimously with a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee that the splash park be built at Bellevue Park.

Both Bellevue Park and Clergue Park sites were evaluated by a committee with complete site reviews that compared service requirements, parking, operation and maintenance needs, security, bus route options, demographics/usage and concession services.

Bellevue’s larger footprint, ample parking, proximity to other amenities and concession and less expensive cost for water, sewer and power was selected as the preferred site.

But the issue of location will be raised at the August council meeting.

Downtown Association manager Josh Ingram will make a presentation urging council to reconsider their decision and locate the splash pad in Clergue Park.

Ingram said the Downtown Association was not consulted or asked to participate in any stakeholder meetings by the committee.

He admits the association hasn’t contributed financially to the project but suggested perhaps more money could be raised if the location was in the downtown.

Ingram said the council should be considering the Downtown Improvement Plan and its own strategic plan with every decision they make and he believes that wasn’t done with the splash park.

“Different municipalities have put their splash pads right in the middle of downtown. Thunder Bay has said it infuses the downtown with activity,” he said. In that case, the pad is converted to an ice rink in the winter months, something that’s also possible in Sault Ste. Marie.

Ingram doesn’t buy the argument that costs to implement the splash pad are that much more at Clergue.

“We will present our own in-house brief forecast for the financials and see if there’s a significant difference. I’ll wait to present that at the meeting though,” he said.

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