Budget time is upon us. In Cornwall and the counties, municipal councils are meeting or will be meeting shortly to plan their spending for the next year. A challenging time for any member of council to deal with, balancing the needs of the community with the ability to pay for them. Poor balancing will pit one part of the community against another and reinforce notions of favouritism.
In Cornwall, one issue that came up from the first day of budget meetings is the planned splash pad in Riverdale. It was dropped from the budget for this year. Councillor Claude McIntosh stated that the community feels that “Riverdale gets everything”. An unhelpful comment. McIntosh seems to forget that the splash pad was the lower-cost option to rehabilitating the pool in that section of Cornwall.
Replacing the pool in Riverdale with a splash pad was first talked about in a consultant’s report in 2009. Residents were against it, but this and the Kinsman pool were the two oldest in the city. Estimates at the time pointed to $900,000 to replace the pool. The pool was filled in in 2014 after the previous council voted to go ahead with replacing it with a splash pad which would cost $350,000 and be funded over two years. That is off the table, for now. This is a detriment of the residents who live west of Brookdale avenue.
Cornwall has five outdoor pools, all east of Brookdale with four being south of Thirteenth Street, plus the aquatic center. Council needs to remember that there is a master plan which includes the Riverdale splash pad project. Splash pads are good, but it is a pale replacement for a pool. Right now, Riverdale has neither. Why would council short change that section, or any section, of the city?
That is how the perception of favouritism in a community is fostered. Take something away that one area has, while other areas get to keep what they have. That builds resentment. Council needs to honour the commitment in the city’s master plan and put in the splash pad.
If some around the council table are worried about how to fund it, take it out of the outside agency grants or the Second Street bike lane painting funds. Perhaps tighten the belt a little, or stop handing out as much money through pet project grants in Le Village or the downtown. If Councillor McIntosh wants to talk about favouritism, look no further to those two areas. Businesses in the north end must love that part of their property taxes go to fund programs to fix up businesses in the downtown, while they have to fund their own improvements.
Council of the day came up with the plan to replace the Riverdale pool with a splash pad. It was the lower cost option, not ideal for everyone but it was a fair compromise. A compromise only works when both sides live up to the deal, the city is not. The challenge for council should be, how can they do better. How could they put this splash pad in this spring, not in two years, or ever?
Once a plan is off the radar of council, it is difficult to get it back on. Cut somewhere else, and build the splash pad. The city promised, it planned for it, and now it needs to deliver.