Photo courtesy of Christopher Stephens                                 The City of Parksville is asking for additional park staff and maintenance costs for the recently acquired Ermineskin parklands in preliminary budget discussions.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Stephens The City of Parksville is asking for additional park staff and maintenance costs for the recently acquired Ermineskin parklands in preliminary budget discussions.

Parksville council questions park maintenance bill

Ermineskin land acquisition will require more parks staff

A month ago, Parksville council was celebrating its acquisition of a new wetlands park bordering the city. During last week’s first deliberation of its 2018-22 draft financial plan, councillors were questioning the level of staffing and maintenance costs that will come with the 97-acre property.

In her presentation to council during its Oct. 30 draft budget deliberations, city finance manager Pamela Lovegrove indicated the city was looking at adding 1.5 full-time equivalent positions to the parks staff, and a $50,000 maintenance budget to address work at the park.

“We don’t have a plan for that park that I’m aware of,” Coun. Kim Burden said. “But we have a 1.5 FTE and an additional $50,000 for something we don’t have a plan for yet?”

City engineering director Vaughn Figueira said the amount was an estimate based on costs at Top Bridge Park, a roughly similar semi-improved property, and would include the cost of a required municipal insurance inspection.

“The $50,000 will cover material costs of upkeep of trails,” said Figueira. “We’ll have to see what (else) comes out of the public process of developing the park plan.”

Council approved the $1.3-million purchase of the Ermineskin land from the Alberta-based Ermineskin Cree First Nation on Sept. 18. The land includes a freshwater wetland and several city wells, and council’s purchase agreement will leave the land as a park “in perpetuity.”

Related: Parksville adds 97-acre wetlands

Coun. Leanne Salter asked what level of maintenance would be required in the park if the land was going to be left “in its natural state.

“I think ($50,000) is an arbitrary number,” she said. “I need real numbers.”

Lovegrove conceded in her report the city was unable at this time to determine the exact cost for maintenance on the park.

“That will be reviewed at the end of (2018) and adjusted for budgets going forward,” she said.

Debbie Comis, the city’s CAO, said council was advised during its deliberations into the land purchase that maintaining the parkland at the level of the city’s other outer parks would require 1.5 full-time equivalent staff above the parks department’s current workload.

The next budget deliberation will take place Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.