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Consultant axed, WMC security in the works for 2014 budget

A department with no major changes in the offing – Woolwich recently went through a spate of recreation spending – there’s no need to drop $60,000 to plot a course for the next five years, councillors decided last week. The proposed spending for a consultant was axed from the $4.3-million recreation and facilities budget.

Some of the savings from dropping the recreation master plan are likely to be channelled into a security system at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, where vandalism January 1 caused $100,000 in damage.

Coun. Mark Bauman, noting he’s always wary of spending money on consultants, led the charge on eliminating the rec. master plan, saying he would not support the department’s budget with that item in place.

He suggested the money would be better spent on something tangible like, say, a soccer field.

“I’d rather spend it on grass on the ground, rather than a paper study.”

Some 80 per cent of the money was to come from the township’s development charges fund, reserves generated by fees from developers earmarked for future municipal needs related to growth. Director of Finance Richard Petherick noted the money could be redirected to the use proposed by Bauman or a similar project, as long as the work was related to development-related growth.

Bauman’s fellow councillors were onside, voting down the plan 4-0. Mayor Todd Cowan, chairing the January 23 budget session, was the only one to push for the spending.

Councillors were unanimous, however, in the need for an alarm system at the WMC. None was in place at the time of the break-in, allowing the perpetrators unchecked access to the $23-million facility.

Recreation and facilities director Karen Makela said initial estimates put the cost of installing an alarm system at about $15,000, plus $250 per month in monitoring fees. Adding video surveillance would bump the price tag by $20,000 to $25,000, proving the ability to identify perpetrators and offering risk-management benefits, such as potential liabilities around accidents, a plus on the insurance side.

Petherick noted a security system “will have a positive impact on our premiums.”

A firm plan for boosting securing measures at the WMC will be discussed by council prior to approval of the final 2014 budget, expected to be passed on March 4.

One project not likely to make it onto the list this year is a skate park proposed for Elmira. While council has been supportive of the idea, offering up space in Bristow Park, there were no takers when Ruby Weber, appearing on behalf of Skate Elmira, requested the township to contribute $100,000.

“I know that you’ve come into a bit of a windfall this year,” she said of an extra $372,000 expected from the township’s ownership stake in Waterloo North Hydro. “Think about our youth and their needs as well.”

Coun. Allan Poffenroth indicated he would be in favour of contributing some money, but was not prepared to come up with a dollar amount at this juncture.

For his part, Coun. Mark Bauman was reluctant to commit funding without more details, noting the township has spent millions in the last few years on rec. facilities, and has a long list of neglected roads, bridges and similar infrastructure projects.

He also rejected characterizing the hydro money as a windfall, calling it a return on an investment similar to other financial investments made by the township.

“I am not prepared to add recreation dollars for a small interest group.”

The skate park is expected to cost $500,000, with most of the money to be raised by the public. The group currently has about $75,000, with the main fundraising campaign yet to be launched, said Weber.

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