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City to loan money for playground project

The City of St. Albert will loan $16,100 to a parent group from Bertha Kennedy School to pay for the completion of a new playground that opened last year.

The City of St. Albert will loan $16,100 to a parent group from Bertha Kennedy School to pay for the completion of a new playground that opened last year.

Council voted unanimously Monday night in favour of the three-year, interest-free loan to the Friends of Bertha Kennedy Society, which must pay back the money by June 20, 2013. Any amounts not repaid by that time will be subject to an annual interest rate of 3.25 per cent.

The society approached city council earlier this year because its $378,000 project was over-budget by about $41,000.

At the time, council provided a grant of $25,500 and suggested the loan as a way to make up the remaining shortfall. Loan payments will be $5,366 next June 30 and $5,367 on the same date each of the following two years.

Darren Giacobbo, who chairs the playground committee for the Friends of Bertha Kennedy, was happy with the approval.

“We’re quite pleased to hear that. We think it’s a worthwhile cause,” he said, noting children from all over St. Albert are welcome to use the facility.

The money will allow parents to buy and install site furnishings like picnic tables, benches and garbage receptacles, and also finish some minor landscaping, Giacobbo said.

The society has raised $70,000 in the last two years, Giacobbo said, so paying back the loan won’t be a problem. He wanted a relaxed payback schedule because parent councils change every year and he didn’t want a new council to be burdened by having to pay back the entire amount in one year.

The Bertha Kennedy project received $84,645 from a city grant program in 2009. It was one of four playground projects to access the fund.

When discussing the issue in April, Mayor Nolan Crouse was hesitant to give the parents more money. This week he said he was really happy that the two sides came to a resolution.

“I think there’s a message sent here that we can support not-for-profits and community groups who are in need but it’s not all hand-outs,” he said.

Coun. Gareth Jones isn’t worried because of the group’s track record.

“This group has demonstrated the ability to raise money,” he said. “If we were talking about a much larger figure, I would have some reservations, but not for 16,000.”

Earlier this year, the city’s administration was leery of providing more money to the group for fear of setting a precedent. Coun. Len Bracko wasn’t worried about that.

“Setting precedents is not a concern for me. That’s what’s required of the leadership of council,” he said.

“It’s a matter of helping people who are contributing to the community.”




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