New track facilities topic of lengthy debate at Delta council

New track facilities in Delta have inched a step closer to reality… or have they?

After a lengthy debate at the Delta council table Monday, civic politicians voted in favour of a motion by Coun. Bruce McDonald that the city “develop an agreement with the Delta School District to pursue funding to bring a track to North (Delta) and South Delta which will achieve an acceptable standard for our citizens.”

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McDonald said there are other partnership examples of school boards and city councils, adding the province and feds have signed a new agreement to significantly fund appropriate local facilities.

“I can tell you that I’ve had more emails and discussion with people over this issue than almost anything else we’ve been involved in because there’s people who’ve been advocating for a track for years. The track is not just used for track meets, it’s a safe place for people to walk… We’ve moved other projects up and down on the scale over the years when it’s appropriate to do so,” said McDonald.

It was noted by staff that around $157 million over the next decade would be available for playground and recreation centre initiatives, but details aren’t available as far as which projects would be eligible. Staff stated the city would likely have to fork over at least 60 per cent of the cost of the local project.

It was also noted by staff during the discussion that any potential funding by senior government would have to involve city-owned land and projects, and not schools, which steered the discussion to the possibility of having new tracks on Delta property.

Coun. Sylvia Bishop noted the track issue has been discussed at the school board/council liaison committee where members learned it’s complicated.

“What we have discovered in the work is that it’s very complex and there are always more questions than there are answers, and sometimes the answers seem to contradict themselves,” she said.

Mayor Lois Jackson was the only council member to vote in opposition, noting there’s a long list of other unfunded parks and recreation projects that have been waiting for the green light. She also pointed out how Delta hasn’t been in the habit of funding projects on school district land.

Coun. Robert Campbell said having a partnership puts Delta in a position to immediately pursue funding opportunities when they become clear.

Concerned what taxpayers and user groups would have to say, Jackson wondered if it is to be on school district property, then perhaps it would be more appropriate for the board of education to seek government grants.

Noting the bill for two new tracks could have a $16 million total price tag, Jackson added she’s concerned the city isn’t approaching the issue in a logical manner and council should first sit down with school trustees.

Coun. Heather King asked why Delta doesn’t have a strategic plan for its parks and recreation facilities. Parks, recreation and culture director Ken Kuntz answered most cities have moved away from them because they often create expectations that can’t always be realized. He said Delta, in essence, does have a plan in the $30 million to $50 million in unfunded projects on an extensive wish list.

He also told council the land issue is the big unknown which should be sorted out, as well as where new tracks stand in the city’s priority list.

The parks, recreation and culture commission and school board/council liaison committee will discuss the partnership idea, but it won’t be until a council business plan workshop near the end of the year that the city can look at how much it’s willing to spend.

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