March 17th, 2018

Veiner garden goes back to committee

By Collin Gallant on March 8, 2018.

Raised garden beds like these make for more comfortable gardening especially if you don't like going down on your knees or are in a wheelchair. They could be part of the newly reconstructed Veiner Centre complex.--PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY

A plan to build accessible garden beds at the reconstructed Veiner Centre has been sent back to committee over concerns about long-term maintenance costs.

The plan to install raised beds for flowers or vegetable growing for use by seniors was announced in late February and arrived at council Monday.

At that time though, it was pulled out of the agenda and referred back to the public services committee at the request of committee chair Coun. Julie Friesen.

City council typically gathers before meetings to discuss the agenda and discuss issues, and it’s not uncommon for committee reports to be split up for separate voting. That allows council members to support non controversial or time sensitive issues without voting on all as a package.

“There were some more questions about the project, so we’ll take it back,” Friesen told reporters after the meeting.

Those questions likely involve the capital and maintenance costs, according to a member of the committee.

When administrators outlined the plan last week, Coun. Kris Samraj had expressed concern over potential costs of maintaining the beds as well as the initial cost of about $95,000, and asked about potential community partnerships to maintain the beds.

“We had questions about the specifics about the project and the ongoing maintenance costs of how it was going to run,” he said.

“It will go back to committee and we’ll talk about it more then.”

The beds, measuring about one metre by four metres (or three feet by 12 feet) would be located near the previous front entrance of the building that’s being renovated and expanded ahead of an opening date this year.

The project would be paid for partly by a $25,000 grant from a federal seniors program, with the remainder coming from the city’s “Nature’s Best” reserve, built up from electricity profits and generally used to support environmentally-friendly projects.

Briefing notes state when the project plan was initially begun it was to include some feature involving “sustainability.” In a now abandoned plant to build a new centre in Norwood, architects proposed a so-called “greenwall” of live vegetation be installed as a focal point in the centre’s central common area.

Such a thing wouldn’t be feasible in the one-storey location in the River Flats, so administrators also considered solar panels or a zeriscape, low water requirement garden to highlight potential water conservation.

However, the note states, such gardens are becoming common and solar panels are made less economic by the city’s low power rates.

Administrators told committee that most of the cost involves pouring a concrete slab at the site. That is required to give a level surface for those with limited mobility.

Earlier this winter, the committee heard the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank was seeking support to create more community gardens in the city, possibly by converting seldom used park space.

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