Bolender Park is the target location for what organizers hope will be a world-class splash pad in Elmira.
That’s the preferred location of a majority of Woolwich councillors, many of whom still have concerns about the cost of the facility, specifically annual operating expenses estimated at $40,000.
In approving the site, subject to technical studies clearing the location, councillors meeting Tuesday night were adamant the project committee would have to pick up all capital costs. That includes the extension of water lines, technical studies and landscaping the committee suggested be a municipal expense.
“I can’t support any capital investment coming from the township,” said Coun. Larry Shantz, noting groups in Breslau and St. Jacobs are also looking at splash pad projects.
Fundraising efforts under the auspices of the Woolwich Recreational Facilities Foundation have garnered some $500,000 so far for the Elmira project, though more may be needed to cover all of the costs.
The proposal would see the development of a 40-foot by 100-foot splash pad with 23 individual water features, divided into three age-appropriate play zones, from toddlers to teens.
At 4,000 square feet, the facility would not only be large by regional standards, but even at the provincial level, noted organizing committee member Shelley Martin.
“We’re looking to bring a world-class amenity to the Township of Woolwich,” she told councillors. “We want this to be a destination. People will come to use this.”
Arguing against any scaling back of the plan, she stressed that benefits of the large facility, including the multiple play areas accommodating kids of all ages and abilities.
While not pushing for cutbacks, councillors were largely adamant about finding ways to reduce the projected operating costs, which grew substantially from the $7,500 to $10,000 a year discussed just last fall.
Mayor Sandy Shantz found little support as an advocate for covering the operating costs, likening that to subsidizing the cost of the swimming pool and youth programs.
“This is something for our children,” she said.
Like Coun. Larry Shantz, however, Coun. Patrick Merlihan had issues with setting a precedent for future splash pad builds, including the operating costs.
“I’m really balking at the $40,000. If we agree to $40,000 here … then what about Breslau and St. Jacobs?
Coun. Murray Martin noted the operating costs are likely to rise dramatically given the large annual increases in water costs. The same applies to electricity.
To reduce the $40,000 per year operating cost, staff will look at shortening the proposed schedule of 24 weeks a year, 11 hours per day.
“It is a little bit long,” recreation director Ann McArthur acknowledged, noting prime time would be the nine-week summer break from school.
She expects to come back with revised numbers when councillors meet again Aug. 23.
Find the full council report HERE.