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City grant, loan give playground a boost

The playground at Bertha Kennedy Community School got another upswing of cash from city council Monday night.

The playground at Bertha Kennedy Community School got another upswing of cash from city council Monday night.

Darren Giacobbo, representing the Friends of Bertha Kennedy playground project, informed council that the project came in over budget at about $378,000, leaving them short $44,000. The committee asked council to help make up the difference.

The shortfall was a result of both a rise in construction costs and receiving less grant money than expected. Giacobbo said one of the largest reasons for the rise in costs was the requirement of a drainage system needed on the playground, which he said no one was aware of when they planned the project.

Although the committee has installed weeping tile to help, Gaicobbo said the remainder of the work requires bringing in people who are able to construct the drain.

“We can’t complete the project without funding from the city,” he said. “It’s more of an engineering feat that is a little beyond our committee’s capabilities.”

Giacobbo added that the group was committed to fundraising throughout the school year, including a recent corporate donation of $3,000, which brought their deficit down to $41,410. He said the Greater St. Albert Catholic School board did not have the funds to contribute to the project.

Mayor Nolan Crouse said he was leery to give more grant money for the playground, citing a grant of $84,645 in 2009 to help with the project. Instead he asked Giacobbo if the committee would consider accepting a loan from the city, which they would have to pay back over a five- or 10-year term.

“It’s not something we’ve considered, but it’s something I can take back to them,” Giacobbo said.

Administration recommended against giving the project the money, instead suggesting the city help organizers find new ways to fundraise the money.

“We recognize the hard work this committee has done, but we also tried to be conscious of the [precedent] that could be set by our response to this,” general manager of community and protective services Chris Jardine said. “We feel we can’t give more money. We understand that seems harsh.”

Crouse later suggested that the city contribute a mixed grant-loan. The city will provide $15,533 from the city’s rainy day reserve with the rest given as a loan. He likened the motion to help the city provided for the Father Jan school playground, which was also a loan.

“I’m trying to make sure there’s a certain level of support for what’s being done,” he said. “We’re dealing with taxpayers’ money and we need to have a compromise.”

Council ended up bumping up the grant amount to $25,500, reducing the loan amount to $16,100, a move that came at the suggestion of Coun. Len Bracko. Council also asked administration to look into how to administer the loan, with a report expected in early June.

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