Petrolia Mayor John McCharles says it may be time to talk to the public about a plan to build outdoor sports fields at the Oil Heritage District Community Centre.
The plan dubbed The Backyard Plan has been talked about in council chambers and McCharles says the community centre committee and the parks and recreation committee have a plan which includes building tennis and basketball courts, a splash pad, skateboard park, soccer pitches and a baseball diamond on the land around the centre.
In the 2015, Director of Finance Rick Charlebois laid out how much money might be necessary to complete the plan – $1.7 million. He’s spread the expense over five years with the bulk of the spending taking place in 2019.
But Councilor Ross O’Hara questioned the expense, wondering out loud exactly what was included in the project and if it was really needed. O’Hara wanted to delay the project for a year, taking about $64,000 out of the 2015 budget.
“I still have a problem with $64,000 for the Backyard Project especially when we have an eight per cent increase and we’re having a hard time taking care of what we have,” he said during the budget meeting.
Director of Community Services, Dave Menzies, says the $64,000 this year is, in part, for a study to plan exactly what the backyard would look like. “We need a vision for the backyard,” he says adding the town doesn’t want to just build a splash park and then realize the basketball or tennis court would have been better in that spot.
And Menzies says a number of community groups have committed funds for the project and the town is “getting pressure to do something.”
McCharles told The Independent he isn’t sure there was ever a public meeting about the idea of concentrating sports activities around the centre or the $1.7 million cost and he says, it may be time to do that.
“It may be time for public input and a feasibility study to see what the public wants and what the public will pay for,” he says. “It has been the dream of quite a few people and it may be time to bring this to the populous…to get some ideas and generate some interest.
“We have a lot of parks and parks cost us money – big time money…How much can we afford?”