Splash pad construction set to begin

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

UPDATE: Farmboy Real Estate reached out to the Make a Big Splash Committee with a payment schedule, which will fulfill their pledge to the project. In a letter to the Committee dated June 19, 2023, Farmboy stated it would provide an in-kind donation of accommodations for construction workers in town for the project, which is anticipated to be between 4-6 people. Installation is expected to begin July 10. According to the letter, the remainder of the $50,000 block of funding will be provided as a cheque on July 31. The third and finals instalment of $50,000 will be paid on August 31.

The Make a Big Splash committee posted on their Facebook page last Sunday that with recent $7,000 donation from the Borderland Pride Drag Show fundraiser along with $10,000 from the Moffat Family Fund, the finish line will be crossed with the final $75,000 pledged from Farmboy Real Estate.

When the idea of a splash park in Fort Frances was floated last year, Farmboy Real Estate pledged to contribute $100,000 in three instalments. The project has begun construction, with the first instalment of $25,000 paid earlier this spring. However, the committee is waiting to hear a payment schedule for the remainder.

Contacted via text, Farmboy president Wade Friesen says he thought terms were settled after a letter to the committee.

“I think we were clear when we talked to them in [quarter one] of this year that we wanted to fund it in phases,” Friesen wrote. “We stated this in a letter to them, $25,000 up front, $50,000 during construction, and $25,000 at completion.”

However, committee member and interim Fort Frances CAO Travis Rob says not having those additional funds now could put the project’s completion in jeopardy.

“We’re approaching the finish line,” Rob said. “We’ve expended some pretty substantial dollars so far as a group to secure the splash park features and secure playground equipment and secure the washroom facilities — all of these long delivery items — so that we can get them here and get this park open during summertime so we still have some summer left to use it.”

Rob says he’s grateful to the community for stepping up to donate; the Facebook post indicates that more than 200 people and businesses have donated over the course of the Make a Big Splash campaign which launched fundraising efforts with the Tbaytel for Good Campaign last year.

Friesen says Farmboy is excited to see the project come to fruition.

“Everyone in our company has children or nephew/nieces that live here and we want to make the community better for them to enjoy and love. That is what our company is about and this project aligns perfectly with our vision,” he said.

He said he anticipates making the $50,000 contribution in cash and in-kind donations near the end of July, “if everything is on track. And if everything is completed on schedule, I assume the final payment would be made at the end of August.”

He claims he hasn’t been presented with a schedule, so he can’t provide an exact timeline for payments.

However, Rob alleged that the committee hasn’t heard a payment schedule, despite multiple attempts to initiate contact. In a May 11 letter, the Make a Big Splash committee invited Friesen to attend their May 18 meeting, but he did not attend.

In a May 23 letter, the committee advised Friesen that they needed a response on the timeline of contributions by June 12 in order to finalize installation. Rob alleged that they have not had any response from Friesen as of that deadline, which passed last week. The Times was unable to confirm with Friesen if he had received the correspondence attempts.

The committee stated that they understood Friesen’s desire to make donations in instalments, but that cash in hand is required to proceed with certain aspects of the project.

“We understand that Farmboy’s plan is to contribute funds in instalments, however, once we reach the stage of installation of the equipment, we require the money in the bank,” the letter reads. “We, as a committee, are responsible for funding the project and do not have the ability to engage banks for bridge financing to complete the project. Therefore we rely on contributions of the public to complete the work.”

There is also a positive progress report about the ongoing work at the park. Washroom facilities are 85 per cent complete and due to arrive on site at the end of July or in early August, the splash park equipment is in production and due to arrive in early July. The playground equipment should be arriving around the first week in August, Rob says.

“The things we have the money to commit to are well underway,” he said. “The things I haven’t done any real work on securing materials and contractors for are the walking path and the basketball court. Those are two pieces where we just don’t have the money yet.”

The Make a Big Splash committee has been very dedicated to fundraising, by attending many community events, including the Business Expo, Participation Day, and having members at the “Splash” drag show fundraiser last Saturday to serve drinks and snacks.

“We as a committee have made some public promises, to the town and the residents, and as a committee we’re dedicated to make sure that happens so it’s a bit of a stressful time,” Rob said. “We have things we want to do, we should, by all rights, be able to do it with the money that’s been pledged. But until the money is in the bank, it’s not in the bank.”