Fort St. John's plan for a new off leash dog park at Toboggan Hill is a go.
On Monday, city council approved a $705,947 contract to Knappett Industries to build the park, and added an extra $368,000 to cover a number of budget overruns.
That brings the total cost of the park's development up from $500,000 to $868,00, but simply reflects the needs and wants of residents, Mayor Lori Ackerman said.
"The beauty about this entire project is we decided we were building a dog park because the community said we wanted a dog park. So, we threw some money into the budget because we had never built a dog park before, and then went to the community and said, what would you like?" Mayor Lori Ackerman said.
"What they like is overbudget from what we had thought about putting into the budget. So, there's no lighting your hair on fire. This is a dog park, and we're doing what the residents have asked for in the consultation.
"For us to do it any other way would mean we would spend exactly that and not listen to our public, and that's just not the right way to approach these things."
The park's location was identified as part of an overall plan to refurbish Toboggan Hill Park.
Plans include clearing out eight to nine acres of brush and forest along 93 Street, and building three separately fenced areas for miniature, small, and large dogs. The park will also feature a year-round public walking path, a new parking lot, picnic areas, and watering sites.
Development also includes site servicing and utilities like water and sewer.
Most of the project will be funded through Peace River Agreement monies from the province, which compensates the city for industrial development outside its boundaries.
The overruns — which include the extra building costs, consulting and project management fees, and contingencies — will be covered through the city's federal gas tax reserves, of which the city has a balance of $1 million.
The city hired EDS Group of Spruce Grove to lead public consultations for $25,000, and expanded the scope of its contract to include detailed design work on the park.
According to a report, consulting and project management costs are now at $112,000. Contingencies are set at $50,000.
City staff note the project is entirely funded through grant sources, and councillors acknowledged the high price-tag for the park's development is sure to be a hot topic in local coffee shops.
Coun. Gord Klassen said the development revitalizes an area of Toboggan Hill that has long sat undeveloped. Though the cost is high, it's an investment in making the city a desirable place to live, he said.
"It's part of building a community that's livable and enjoyable to come to," Klassen said.
"It's a lot of money. The point is it's much bigger than that. There's a great argument to be made for doing this."
Coun. Trevor Bolin was not at Monday's meeting and did not vote on the plan.
Meanwhile, construction is underway on a multi-use trail development through Toboggan Hill Park.
Work will see the extension of the path from the Rotary Skate Park to North Peace Secondary School from 86 to 93 Streets, as well as connections to other existing pathways in the park.
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