City crossing funding bridge on new green space

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Justin Crann
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Iron Bridge park maintenance costs triple in 2014

The city has inherited new green space — along with its associated costs.

Matt Noble, Moose Jaw's city manager, addresses council regarding the jump in maintenance costs for Iron Bridge park as the city assumes responsibility for its maintenance.

Budget committee was told Saturday, during a discussion of the parks and recreation department's budget, Moose Jaw has inherited the maintenance costs for the Iron Bridge Estates subdivision's parks and pathways as per an agreement with the developer of the subdivision before it was constructed.

Maintenance of the parks and pathways in the development will cost taxpayers $26,168 in 2014, up from $8,064 in 2013, as the city takes on its role as primary caregiver for the grounds.

"There's a significant increase (in cost) there," Jody Hauta, the department's director, told budget committee during the meeting. "In 2013, we only had a partial program budgeted for that particular space. In 2014, it is anticipated that we will be taking over all of the mowing, irrigation maintenance and lighting for the parks that are out there.

"This is operation costs. We had nothing to do with construction," he added. "We'll inherit the pathways, pathway lights, irrigation systems, and grass."

But Coun. Brian Swanson took issue with the cost of the space as compared to other city parks that were listed. Among those on the list, Iron Bridge is one of the costliest.

"I can add up Elgin Park ($8,048 requested for 2014), Happy Valley Park ($8,725) and Belmont Park ($5,512) and all of those parks will be maintained for the same cost as the Iron Bridge Park and pathways," said Swanson. "How does that work?"

But according to city administration, the cost is higher due to a number of factors: the size of the space, which is more than the 10 per cent of land required for park space in all subdivision developments; the irrigation of some areas within the space; the costs incurred for powering lights along the pathways; and the landscaping features that make maintenance more time-consuming.

"The standard of care is similar to our other park areas," said Kelly Mentenko, the parks and recreation department's operations manager. "There are some natural areas there that are not irrigated and smaller areas that are … (and) there's a great deal of landscaping that was put in, and it is a lot of work to do that with mowers."

Swanson continued to take issue with the cost.

"We're inheriting the design of somebody else and we're going to spend what we were going to spend on four parks for that," he said. "I just wonder about the balance here."

Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick held similar concerns.

"Are we sitting here in a situation where the city requires 10 per cent green space in a development, and then the developer decides to literally do what they want, as long as they fill that (quota)?" she asked. "Are we left sitting here, holding the bag?"

"It's pretty much about what you agree to at the time (of sale)," answered Noble. "We can certainly revisit this, but it is whatever you agreed to (at the time)."

But Matt Noble, Moose Jaw's city manager, said design problems that would incur sufficient cost for the city "should be identified during the planning process," and that "it is usually (the city's) request to dedicate parkland in the subdivision process."

But he said the Iron Bridge case might shine a light on shortcomings in the city's own processes.

"There should be a process … when we have these new subdivisions being developed. Clearly, we have to identify those areas of parkland which we should be aware will become a responsibility for us to assume some maintenance costs on, in the future," Noble said. "I see what the councillor is saying. (Iron Bridge) sticks out like a sore thumb."

No formal requests were made with respect to the Iron Bridge development, but there is a provision for enhanced inspection of development projects in the 2014 budget.

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Geographic location: Iron Bridge Park, Moose Jaw, Elgin Park Happy Valley Park Belmont Park

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