By Trevor Busch
A cost-sharing proposal between the town and golf course for construction of a welcome sign was passed by a split 4-3 vote amid controversy at town council’s Oct. 24 regular meeting.
Bruce Gilbertson, president of the Taber Golf Club board of directors, headed a delegation from the club that proposed construction of a fence and signage that would be intended to enhance the entrance to Taber via Highway 36 for visitors coming from the south, including the United States, and located near the club’s maintenance shop.
“Basically, it’s not too far from where the walking path goes, and it is kind of an eyesore at times. There’s certain times of the year when it’s all cleaned up and it’s not too bad, but half the time throughout the summer there is a fair amount of stuff piled up there. It would help cover up this eyesore, to a certain degree, and it also would serve as a Taber Golf Club sign, and also the Town of Taber welcoming sign.”
In a written submission to town council, Gilbertson indicated the Taber Golf Club has been struggling financially for a number of years, and was requesting town assistance in the construction of a welcome sign and fence near the club’s maintenance shop adjacent to Highway 3.
“The Taber Golf Club, in its financial situation at the moment, is not capable of funding any of these types of projects,” said Gilbertson. “The proposed plan would have a stucco finish, to find anyone to do that for no charge, that’s pretty much impossible. With the current economic conditions for the Taber Golf Club, we just don’t have the money to help out. I don’t know if this is a project you can take into consideration in your budget deliberations to see whether it would be feasible or not.”
According to the council request for decision on the matter, “administration recommends these actions in addition to addressing other opportunities for signage improvements along Highways 3 and 36. There are several signs along these major corridors that are unsightly and/or neglected, such as the Canadian Badlands sign and the service clubs sign”.
“Within your Municipal Development Plan, there are provisions to enhance that highway corridor, and there are some various signage there that probably could be refreshed,” said planning director and acting CAO Cory Armfelt.
The Town of Taber’s Municipal Development Plan, Sec. 3.3.1 Major Community Corridor Urban Design Overlay Goals, includes recommended goals to promote Taber as a quality place to live, work and play by ensuring its major transportation corridors are attractive; and to create “visual interest” along major community corridors. As an economic goal under the town’s Strategic Plan, it is also recommended to pursue design initiatives to maximize visibility from Highway 3 and Highway 36 through signage, entrance beautification, and land use changes.
Coun. Randy Sparks opened discussion by questioning Armfelt about the origins of the proposal, and if it came from the golf course board.
“We were made aware from council that this was being considered,” said Armfelt. “I passed it off to Kattie (Schlamp) to work on it from an economic development perspective, to get the reports in as part of a tender package. My understanding is that Mr. Gilbertson from the golf course had been contacted.”
Sparks pointed out that to his knowledge, the proposal had not originated with the golf club, but with members of council.
“We need to remember before we make a decision on this tonight, is that this fence and this signage was not, and is not, a priority of the Taber Golf Club. This project was initiated by two members of council, not the Taber Golf Club. Two members of council approached the Taber Golf Club. The Taber Golf Club did not approach the Town of Taber regarding this sign.”
The fence and sign would be designed to obscure the view of passing traffic of the sand, gravel and composting areas of the golf course. The welcome sign and fence would be approximately 47 meters in length, with an arch in the centre section reaching a height of 10 to 12 feet, with a standard six foot height throughout the rest of the feature.
“It’s just not a pretty picture when you come up Highway 36 into town, but I thought the discussion — I noticed here they talked about putting plastic louvres in the chain link fence,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux. “To me, that would serve just as well, at much less cost that this. We could fix it for just a smaller amount than this.”
The fence would be finished in stucco earth tones to blend in with the golf course, and would display the Town of Taber and Taber Golf Course logos, as well as “Welcome to the Town of Taber” and a reference to the community’s 2016 Communities in Bloom recognition.
“Even though it might somewhat improve that area there, the Taber Golf Club board has way more important projects in the future to consider and deal with than a $60,000 fence with some signage on it,” continued Sparks. “The Taber Golf Club has nine holes with an aging irrigation system that needs replacing and major work at an estimated cost of $500,000. They need new mowers and work done on the maintenance building. This proposed fence will not increase the Taber Golf Club’s revenue stream, it will not improve the playability of the golf course, it will not improve the irrigation system, new mowers, or improve the maintenance building. All it will do is hide some branches until they’re hauled away.”
The rear of the fence would be metal-clad sheeting rather than stucco to prevent potential damage, as the area is an active work location. The major cost to the project, according to Gilbertson, is the stucco portion of the main fence, which would have to be contracted. The golf club also intends to add plastic louvers to the chain-link fenced compound storage area. With funding secured, the estimated $60,000 project is slated to begin spring 2017.
“The information given to council in this RFD states that $30,000 can be raised for this project, with the town coming up with the other $30,000,” said Sparks. “I would much rather contribute a matching grant up to a maximum of $30,000 to help out with operations and maintenance, purchasing a mower, or whatever else they need. Not a fence that will do absolutely nothing at this time to help the Taber Golf Club become more sustainable in the future. My opinion is if we want to help the Taber Golf Club, we need to give them something they can use. I don’t believe that a fence such as this is something they can use. They need money, they need revenue, to help them continue into the future.”
According to administration, the signage would “promote our town’s achievement and showcase the community’s dedication to beautification and environmental responsibility”.
“I feel a little offended by Mr. Sparks’ comments about councillors,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger, who went on to provide a discourse on some of the clean-up initiatives that have already been implemented in the area, before further addressing Coun. Sparks’ comments. “I think in the town’s interest, we also have to sell our town, make it look good, give a good first image. I think it’s commendable that the golf course is willing to help out with that, with materials and labour. I think it’s in the town’s interest, but it’s also in the golf course’s interest, to give themselves a better image, to make it look like a more attractive golf course instead of looking at the junk when you come in.”
DeVlieger indicated that if the golf club is struggling financially, the town could consider some form of financial assistance in future.
“I think it’s beneficial for both, and from an economic development point of view, it think it is, too. If there’s a problem that they cannot make their budget anymore, and they need more money to replace sprinklers or anything else, then I think that’s an issue they can bring up to us, too. But that is not a request at this time. If for some reason they can’t make ends meet anymore, I think then they can come to council and discuss it at that time, because the golf course it still a very important recreational facility for this town.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas agreed with Mayor DeVlieger over the proposal’s value to the community at large.
“This is just one more project to beautify this community, and make this community more appealing. You’re got the golf club willing to contribute in the neighbourhood of $30,000 in men and materials to get that portion done. I think anytime anybody comes to town council with a project of this magnitude with 50 per cent of the money up front, I think it’s well taken into consideration. I think we need to extend a hand up and give them a favourable vote on this.”
Coun. Rick Popadynetz was less charitable in his opinion of the project’s value to hard-pressed taxpayers in the community.
“I want to make decisions that are best for all members of the town of Taber, not just a few to beautify a single area. With the tax burdens of every level of government in this province, I don’t see $30,000 helping out at this point in time. We’re in a really tough economic time, and people are strapped in our town. I don’t think they would support the purchase of a sign.”
Although stopping short of publicly identifying the councillors who allegedly originated the project, Sparks did address Mayor DeVlieger’s comments.
“I don’t know why anyone would be offended by what I had to say, because this information I’ve heard presented at this meeting was given to me by members of the board of the Taber Golf Course. I don’t know why anyone would be offended when I’m just speaking what others have presented to me. Sure it would be an awesome sign, but a sign isn’t going to help the Taber Golf Course. This was not their priority. They have other priorities to deal with to keep that course up an moving.”
Following discussion at their Oct. 24 regular meeting, council voted 4-3 to direct administration to budget $30,000 in the planning and economic development department budget for 2017 to assist in the funding of the Taber Golf Club sign along Highway 3 at Highway 36 south (as recorded according to the unapproved minutes of the Oct. 24 meeting). Coun.(s) Randy Sparks, Rick Popadynetz and Laura Ross-Giroux opposed the motion.
The vote result was requested to be officially recorded in the minutes of the meeting by Mayor DeVlieger.