With a civic election a little more than two months away, one of the issues that has muscled its way into the public consciousness is the need to upgrade and expand our parks and recreation amenities. A new tennis facility and replacement running tracks have captured most of the attention thus far, but they’re just two projects on a laundry list of those awaiting the go-ahead from city hall.
Responding to an uptick in public chatter, those seeking office this October have embraced the idea of improving civic facilities, but exactly how they’ll do so, while continuing to subscribe to Delta’s no new debt policy, is, well, a bit of a mystery.
I don’t think the current council is opposed to better facilities, and to be fair, it has undertaken a number of initiatives in that regard over the years while still allowing Lois Jackson to step down from the mayor’s chair this fall with no municipal debt. However, she also steps away with a short-term parks and recreation wish list that’s north of $50 million and a longer-term list that’s well in excess of $100 million.
The reason for that is money, or lack thereof, which if borrowing continues to be out of the question, it’s hard to see a whole lot changing, regardless of a candidate’s best intentions.
The one wild card, of course, is the casino slated to be built where the Delta Town & Country Inn now stands, which the B.C. Lottery Corporation says will put somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3 million in Delta’s coffers annually. At that rate it would take 17 years to come up with $50 million, about what it would cost to fund projects that are hoped to be completed by 2022, which I’m pretty sure is less than 17 years away.
Cost-sharing, other civic revenue streams, possible senior government funding and higher than anticipated casino returns could all augment that $3 million annual figure, so the wait to see projects undertaken could be considerably shorter, although the list will likely never shrink as additions always tend to outnumber subtractions.
There’s no doubt a casino will help address the wish list, but are candidates looking at it as some sort of magic bullet or do they have other plans to improve our parks and recreation facilities?