The initial construction work was done, but then council said no. A week later, the District of Squamish staff recommendation that the municipality build a new parking lot for the Brennan Park artificial turf field was back on council’s table.
Last week, council was made aware that $47,745 worth of clearing occurred on a lot immediately north of the Loggers Sports Grounds. Staff approved the work to make way for a 150-stall parking lot to service Squamish’s new turf field and surrounding facilities. The approval fell within the district’s purchasing policy — only expenditures over $50,000 must be presented to council.
But when district staff came to council on July 24 to authorize the remaining work, valued at $91,445, it hit a road block. In a spilt vote, council nixed the move as Ron Sander, Patricia Heintzman and Susan Chapelle voted against.
On Tuesday (July 31), in an unprecedented move under the current council, staff’s recommendation was back on the table. Mayor Rob Kirkham told councillors it was before them again because aspects of the proposal needed clarification.
Chapelle ripped into the motion’s return, noting that two councillors who opposed the recommendation were absent from the meeting. Her vote didn’t sway the others, though, for the same reasons she stated at the previous council meeting.
“It is borrowed money, before we have a Parks and Recreation Master Plan,” Chapelle said.
So far, the turf field bill falls at least $600,000 under its original $1.7 million budget, meaning the district may not have to touch $683,185 it’s authorized to borrow for the project. Parking is not part of the overall plan and its addition means dipping into the red, Chapelle said.
District staff could break all the district’s projects into $50,000 pieces, she told The Chief. The whole process was backward, she said. User groups went directly to district staff, instead of municipal committees, and staff pitched their interests to council.
“This hasn’t happened before,” Chapelle said. “This is not going to happen again.”
It was staff’s understanding that parking was a part of the overall turf field plan, said Corien Speaker, the district’s chief administrative officer. The district report was fast-tracked with the added desire to facilitate the Aug. 24 to 26 Live at Squamish music festival.
The turf field’s construction has left organizers scrambling to replace lost parking and the municipality has an obligation to Live at Squamish to provide it, Kirkham said.
“We have breached an agreement with them,” he said.
Kirkham said the confusion over the parking issue may be a result of unclear direction from council on the “global” plan for the turf field.
“We haven’t really got to the point where we have the big picture,” he told The Chief. “To me that makes sense because we are waiting for the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.”