By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber has opted for a wait-and-see approach to a funding request for a playground project at Central School.
Clarissa Brown, heading a delegation from the Friends of the Taber Central School Community Association, presented the association’s overall vision for the playground at town council’s Nov. 27 regular meeting.
The association is raising funds to facilitate a playground enhancement at Central School as the current structure has surpassed its life expectancy and needs replacement due to safety concerns.
“Because of safety reasons, it has to be removed,” said Brown. “Because of our water table, the piles keep raising, and that causes danger to our children. It’s one of the older pieces of playground in Central — we’re trying to make this a playground for the community as well. It’s a great central location, tons of people use this.”
The overarching fundraising target for the playground is $278,010, and members of the organization have already raised $20,000.
The association was not requesting a specific contribution from council, noting they would accept any cash donation, or in-kind donation of labour, service or supplies.
“I did not know how expensive playgrounds were until I started this,” said Brown. “Our goal is to raise $278,000. I almost choked when I saw that. When you break it down, the playground cost itself is about $98,000. The part that makes it $280,000 is the rubber matting that we’re trying to put on the surface, for wheelchair users that come to our community, it opens it up for them. That matting itself is $185,000.”
Organizers are actively seeking donations, and are planning numerous fundraising opportunities throughout the next year including school fundraisers, concession sales at the volleyball and basketball tournaments, and a community supper.
“I would love $20,000, but I understand that this is not a town playground,” said Brown. “This is a community thing that we’re trying to do. This is mainly going to be a school playground, and I don’t feel that the town should have to support us fully in it.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas argued the town does consider school playgrounds as an essential feature of the community.
“We do feel that school playgrounds are a town feature as well. They do enhance the community overall, and they are in strategic locations.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop inquired if the organization had ever sought casino funding for their project, often a significant source of revenue for community efforts.
“The parent council, when I came to them and asked if they want to be a part of that, they have always declined,” said Brown.
Similarly, to Brown’s knowledge, Horizon School Division does not fund these kinds of projects for area schools.
“I had talked to the principal (Darryl Moser) about this situation, and he said that they (Horizon School Division) have never given money for financing a playground. He didn’t think we could raise this much money already, and we’ve proven him wrong already.”
Brown did indicate that the school division would be picking up the cost and labour of removing the old structures from the playground area.
Allocating funds for this kind of project could set a precedent, warned Coun. Jack Brewin.
“My concern with this is donating here — and it is a great, worthy cause — but we’ll have five other school grounds asking for us to donate as well to their playground equipment. It’s something we need to give some thought to.”
Following discussion, Coun. Louie Tams put forward a motion requesting the organization return to a future council meeting with additional information about the project, as well as any additional fundraising opportunities.
“I would hate to see this project die, yet I’m reluctant to donate money,” said Tams. “If it gets to the end and it’s short this little bit to make it happen in a certain time frame, then I say do it. But to donate $10,000, $20,000, and commit to that now where this project might be three to four years out. I don’t think it would be wise for the town to do that.”
Coun. Garth Bekkering disagreed with this assessment.
“It seems to me if there’s money left over in the discretionary fund for 2017, and possibly for 2018, it’s these type of situations — speaking against the motion — where it’s important that interest is created by, first, people giving,” said Bekkering. “It creates an effect. ‘So the town’s giving some money, we’ll give some money.’ I’m in favour of giving some money right now, I think we should proceed. The other four schools that were mentioned, I know their playgrounds, they are all in very good shape. So the danger of them also applying for some funds I think is rather minimal. You’re creating a brand-new playground project in a very highly populated area, a very central area.”
The resolution passed by a margin of 6-1. Bekkering opposed the motion. Brewin was absent from the meeting, but participated in the proceedings via teleconference call.
In a follow-up motion, council voted unanimously to approve a Community Grant Program application for the Central School Fundraiser Supper, in the amount of $515.25, inclusive of GST.
The event is being held on March 24, 2018.