MEDICINE HAT, AB – Construction continues on the Veiner Centre, but a proposed outdoor project at the site is sparking debate.
A motion to build a $95,000 community garden at the seniors centre was sent back to the Public Services Committee last Monday, with councillors needing more time to weigh their options.
Senior Citizens Advisory Committee chair LaVerne Noble said a large-scale community garden at the Veiner Centre would be an asset to the community.
“Gardens are always important, and that one in particular, because of the idea of the raised beds that are then more accessible to people with mobility problems.”
It’s a hefty price tag, which would mostly be spent on a concrete pad, steel and cedar raised beds, and a concrete retaining wall to separate a nearby playground.
A federal grant would cover $25,000 of the bill, while the remaining $70,000 would be funded from the City’s ‘Nature’s Best Reserve.’
Councillor Kris Samraj was at Monday’s meeting of the Public Services Committee, and wanted to know what the financial impact would be down the road.
“We had questions about the long-term maintenance costs of the garden,” said Samraj. “The Public Services Commissioner assured us that there wouldn't be any significant, long-term costs with that.”
Between eight and ten raised beds have been proposed and would be maintained by seniors at the Veiner Centre.
The Medicine Hat & District Food Bank has been using community gardens for two years, including one established at the Strathcona Centre in 2017.
Co-Executive Director Celina Symmonds said the gardens can have a positive impact for local seniors.
“We know for sure that mentorship and building relationships with people in community really helps people who are feeling isolated and alone.”
Symmonds added they’re open to partnering with the City on the proposed garden.
“Currently, we do have a partnership with the City where we're doing community gardens in different areas around the community,” said Symmonds. “And, we would be absolutely interested to help in any way that we could.”
Cost remains a concern for Samraj though, as he added there isn’t a lot of space to save money in the project.
“For what they're trying to do with this site, there doesn't seem to be a lot of flexibility versus options and how much it's going to cost,” he said. “So, it's kind of an either or option here and that's something we're going to have to talk about in council.”
Noble said she understands concerns regarding the almost six-digit cost, but added the garden would be a project the entire city could use.
“I think a lot of seniors will enjoy using it,” said Noble. “But, keep in mind that it's a community garden, so it's open to the whole community.”
A motion regarding the community garden is expected to be brought back to council on March 19.
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