Skating around the anger of boarding enthusiasts


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Our elected representatives at city hall have been the target of considerable abuse this week following their decision Monday to level the downtown skateboard park.
Little more than 12 hours after the motion was approved, the ramps and associated paraphernalia were reduced to rubble.

The move was prompted by safety concerns at the park located in the Moore Street parking lot, west of Ross Street.
PlayChek Services had inspected the $130,000 park and confirmed the ramps and decks were in poor condition.


The quick demolition, during March break no less, was surely prompted by advice from the city’s legal counsel and insurers.
The obvious question: How much has the city spent on maintenance of the equipment since the facility opened eight years ago?
Surely the park had an expected lifespan far beyond that short time span.
So, while temperatures hovered in the record-breaking range for much of the week, the frustration level of park users and parents boiled over as the skateboarders sought alternative locales to perfect their craft.


Here is a small sampling of some of the more colourful comments left on the T-J website and Facebook page.
“Just more B.S. from city council, nothing better to do.” ­­— John Perry
“Again, something else to not have for our youth . . . fools they are . . . and they wonder why our youth just wander around getting into trouble.” Deborah Beattie
“I posted on the mayor’s page, she deleted me so here is what I posted. I am not impressed with the way this skatepark was dealt with. First you state Monday your council will discuss what and how to deal with this, repairs needed to be done as it was a hazard. Understandably due to the city’s lack of maintenance over the 8 yrs. $130,000.00 for the city to put up something so small that gave so much joy to so many. That is only $16.250.00 per year. Our kids in this city deserve much more than this.” ­ — Tina Tilley-Hindley
“I say why couldn’t repairs be done? How much would it have cost to repair the decks and ramps?”Bryan S.
To play devil’s advocate, what would be the nature of comments had a young skateboarder been seriously injured due to the deteriorated state of the ramps and decks?

CREATIVE FINANCING
Quite the comprehensive report coming before council Monday documenting the city’s capital investment plan needed to access nearly $9 million in provincial gas tax funding available to cover the period 2010 to 2013.
Delving into the nitty-gritty of the draft plan, you unearth a section dealing with capital investment project lists in which the preamble states the obvious: St. Thomas has been put into a fiscally challenging position as a result of the manufacturing meltdown.
The report advises: “While the city is trying to maintain the same level of services offered with the decline in revenues, the aging infrastructural assets ($282 million) are part of the growing demands on funding for maintenance, repair and replacements.”
Included in the aging infrastructure is the existing police headquarters.
The capital investment plan suggests a new police facility might very well benefit from gas tax funding if the building was constructed in an environmentally sustainable fashion contributing to cleaner air, cleaner water and/or reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
So, if council was to pull together and seek out creative financing options instead of endlessly debating whether to refurbish or build from scratch, perhaps the project might move forward in timely fashion.
Just a thought ­­— why can’t a portion of the St. Thomas Holdings Inc. dividend of $500,000 or so, payable to the city on a yearly basis, be allotted to the project to further reduce ratepayer burden?

SALARY MUSINGS
Included in Monday’s council package is a schedule of remuneration and expenses in 2011 for the mayor and members of council.
Mayor Heather Jackson starts with a base salary of $47,380 (plus taxable benefits of $23.04), to which is added a $5,000 car allowance, plus she has claimed $7,151.88 in expenses, for a total of $59,554.92.
By comparison, the mayor of Stratford receives an all-inclusive salary of $60,000 while in Woodstock, the mayor is entitled to a base salary of $45,323.
Sam Yusuf tops the aldermanic remuneration list with a base salary of $19,570 ($23.04 in taxable benefits), in lieu benefits of $2,000, a $1,000 car allowance and $85 in expenses for $22,678.04 in total.
Right behind is Dave Warden at $22,640.04; Gord Campbell, $22,618.04; Tom Johnston, $21,995.69 with $1,402.65 in expenses; Mark Cosens, $21,954 including $1,361.43 in expenses; Jeff Kohler $20,999.48 and no reportable expenses; and Lori Baldwin-Sands, who took a hiatus during the 2011 provincial vote, at $19,098.39.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“There is no monitoring of the facility. Absolutely none. If we’re going to do it again this time, we’re going to do it right.”
Ald. Dave Warden on the next step in the process of replacing the city’s skate park, demolished Tuesday after being deemed unsafe just 12 hours earlier.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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