March 23rd, 2018

Council vote on Veiner garden to be close

By Collin Gallant on March 14, 2018.

A proposal to build an accessible garden at the renovated Veiner Centre is heading back to council, but councillors told a committee this week a vote on the issue would be “close.”

The $95,000 project, which includes a concrete pad to aid those with mobility issues, was unveiled to a seniors’ advisory group last month, but council tabled the idea saying it wanted more information.

On Monday, the public services committee took up the issue but didn’t hear much more than was presented two weeks ago before the body.

Committee chair Coun. Julie Friesen told the meeting the full nine-member council had questions about the price tag of nearly $100,000.

“It would be lovely,” she told the committee. “Are there ways to make it a reality at a far less cost?”

Coun. Kris Samraj said he has concerns with potential maintenance costs and would like to see community groups partner on the project. He also questioned construction costs to install the dozen planter boxes.

Project managers said the concrete pad, which would cover half the area, would cost about $21,000, though a retaining wall to separate it from a playground would be required for drainage.

Planters themselves would be steel and cedar to withstand weather, and since the entire area is designed to augment the side of the building, not much can be scaled back without a major change.

“I’m not sure what the options are,” said Samraj. “It sounds like there is not much flexibility. It sounds like an either-or proposition.”

In terms of ongoing costs, commissioner Karen Charlton said the operation hasn’t been finalized, but likely wouldn’t be significant.

Plots would be assigned to patrons of the centre or others in the community, and no extra operational costs are expected.

“We’re not looking for the city to be involved other than we’ll help with programming,” said Charlton, noting there are two other community gardens operated in the city.

Those, which are operated by local non-profit group Community Foods Connection, already feature waiting lists, she said.

Coun. Jim Turner said the eventual vote on the project would be “close” and hinge on the question, “How do we want to spend our money?”

He cited budget restraints and a recent debate about a $28,000 art purchase that was postponed.

“I don’t know at this time that we want to spend $95,000 on a garden.”

The project budget would be made up partly with a federal grant as well as $70,000 from a utility reserve fund earmarked for high-profile environmental projects.

That fund, the Nature’s Best Reserve, was set up 10 years ago and was originally tapped as a money source for construction of a “green wall” proposed in an early, now shelved plan to rebuild the flood damaged seniors’ centre in Norwood.

Planners also considered installing solar panels at the Flats location, but eventually proposed the less expensive garden.

“This is option No. 4,” said Mayor Ted Clugston, who attended the committee meeting. “I like it personally, but we’ll see when it goes to council.”

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