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City “milking” rainy day funds to finish Centennial Park says Boushy

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 14:14 -- Chris Cooke
Rob Harwood

Rob Harwood says it is “pitiful” and he is disgusted by social media comments regarding vandalism at the reconstructed Centennial Park. Sarnia’s Parks Director told the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland that thefts and vandalism have been “slowing the process”.

The park, which is being remediated at a cost close to $12 million will reopen later this month but getting to completion “has been a journey,” says Harwood and “vandalism has been an ongoing issue”.

Cameras are being installed on the former Dow People Place, which is being rebuilt and renamed the Suncor Agora as part of a $250,000.00 sponsorship agreement.

In addition, the Rotary Club is contributing $150,000.00 for a new playground and a memorial garden.

Harwood says 44 plants have already been stolen from the garden and Parks and Recreation hasn’t even taken possession of the park from the City’s engineering department.

Original plans were to have rotating cameras on the stage, which would focus on the playground and garden. But Harwood says due to the vandalism cameras will be installed near the playground and garden “so we can focus in on what is happening”.

Pathways are wide and accessible, there is a drop off area for buses, extensive lighting, charging stations for wheel chairs with “accessibility as the theme” and the playground and the memorial garden “look terrific”.

In spite of the cost Harwood believes the public will be happy with the results and he “envisions smiles on the faces of those who use the facility”.

But he admits costs continue to be an issue.

The latest report from City Hall indicates another $670,000.00 is needed to bring the remediation to completion.

Originally estimated at $8 million costs have spiraled out of control due primarily to lead, asbestos, oil and other contaminates. The most recent estimate was $11.1 million before another $400,000.00 was needed for unaccounted restoration that included grading, topsoil, grass seed, asphalt and concrete work.

And then there was the former Dow People Place, which required $270,000.00 for structural reinforcement, roof insulation and demolition of floor slabs.

A grand opening is scheduled for June 17 funded through senior governments as part of 150 celebrations. There will be a ribbon cutting, cake, speeches and a community barbecue.

Reports from City Hall suggest most facilities will be completed. However, the boat ramps, removed last January, won’t be ready until later in the year.

A jagged riverbed along with buried construction materials has hampered efforts to replace the ramps.

In the interim, Dave Brown has offered his ramp at Bridgeview Marina. Boat launching fees will be waived until the Centennial Park docks can be replaced.

Mayor Mike Bradley is calling for a third party review of costs associated with the park. “I wanted Council to take greater control of the project but that never happened. There has been a lack of engagement and we keep getting blindsided by these extra costs that no one other than management sees coming”.

Dave Boushy says this is “just crazy”. He says he sensed “something was up” because there never seems to be anybody working down there and the project appears to be stalled.

Boushy says Centennial has gone from a jewel with hundreds of people walking along the river every night to a huge money pit. “We’ve been milking accounts that were set aside for a rainy day and now it is a rainy day”.

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