Farmers aren’t the only ones looking for moisture during hot summers.
Kids looking for fun are always looking for water to splash in and thanks to the collective efforts of three service clubs, that could be a reality in Ponoka next summer.
Town council has agreed to support in principle construction of a water spray park.
But council is will to just wet its feet on a commitment to pay ongoing operational costs.
While the Lions Club and the Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs would foot the bill to build the spray park in Centennial Park, the Town of Ponoka would be responsible for annual operating costs.
But in that regard, council was comparing apples and oranges. The information staff was able to collect from other municipalities was a mixed bag: some included the cost of utilities in their operating costs, some didn’t; some were flow through water consumption, some used recycled water; some had change rooms and washrooms, some didn’t; some had paid staff manning the park, some charged admission.
Coun. Doug Gill recognized the water parks with ancillary buildings seemed to incur the most vandalism and require the most upkeep.
“If it were just like a playground where you drop in, use it and go home, bring your towel and dry off, it would be a lot more economical to run.”
But Coun. Jack Surbey muddied the waters somewhat by insisting his support for the project would be tied to putting a limit on the town’s spending to operate the park. “Do we put a cap on that or say we’ll pay whatever it is?”
The annual operating cost for the water park, likely to be open from mid-May to mid-September, is estimated at $12,336.
“I hope these are realistic numbers,” Coun. Marg Barr said, “because we’re diving in.”
Surbey’s colleagues said the town’s commitment to operating costs should be set when the annual budget estimates are considered. Barr suggested creating a contingency fund that could be fed in cool summers when usage is down and tapped in hot summers when usage and water consumption would be higher.
CAO Brad Watson suggested there will be a learning curve for staff operating the splash park but there are options in reducing expenses such as limiting hours the park is open, turning off lesser used features in the park, asking service clubs and businesses to help defray costs, or charging admission.
“This is a tax increase no matter how you look at it,” Surbey added.
Mayor Larry Henkelman reminded councilors the town will assume operating costs for the new outdoor area, estimated at $50,000, and of its commitment to the planned Agriculture Events Centre.
“Once it’s turned over to us, it’s our baby,” said Coun. John Jacobs. “The town is the bad guy if it gets turned off.
“Yes, I’m concerned about tax increases, we all are, but I think it’s something we have to have.”
Council supported the motion to support the project in principle, using a recycled water system and an above ground control shed. Surbey was opposed. Coun. Jerry Siemens was absent.
While the clubs needed council’s blessing on the location and water treatment option, council still needs to know from the clubs what is needed for utility services.