Step up skate park fundraising, says council

The Kiwanis skate park committee got a helping hand from the Town of Fort Frances on Monday evening, after council voted in favour of a bridge financing agreement with them.
Under the agreement, the town will pay the outstanding invoices, in the amount of $107,473.82, to contractors, and the Kiwanis Club and skate park committee will continue fundraising activities until a minimum of half the balance (approximately $54,000) is raised.
While council agreed to the bridge financing, several councillors made it crystal clear the wanted to see the skate park committee push harder to get donations, particularly through its “Buy A Brick” campaign.
“It’s not in my nature to criticize, or do anything but support any volunteer group, but why did you build the park when you didn’t have the money?” asked Coun. Tannis Drysdale, adding that in order to vote in favour of the proposed agreement, she would have to hear a strong pledge from the committee they will raise at least $54,000.
“I need to hear ‘We’re going do it,’” she stressed.
“I want to see a very clear plan, a demonstrative kick-off,” said Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft. “We’ve got to get focused on this thing.”
CAO Mark McCaig noted he’s seen other community fundraisers, such as those for the Townshend Theatre and Ice for Kids Arena, be highly successful—all they needed was a good kick-off.
“So over the next couple years, or next six months, we’re looking at getting $107,000?” said Coun. Todd Hamilton. “I think you can get it. I really do.”
Coun. John Albanese noted he believed in the skate park, but he also felt safety should be a priority, to which skate park committee chair Rob Tovey mentioned there is an initiative to educate youth on skateboard, bike and in-line skate safety in the works with the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition.
Tovey noted he and the rest of the committee have raised $156,000 in the past (an amount which includes a previous $25,000 contribution from the town), and are committed to seeing the fundraising goal met.
“I won’t stop. I’ll just keep going. I’d like to get over the half,” he remarked.
While he mentioned that most of the skate park fundraisers so far have raised between $300 and $400, “the brick campaign is right now our number one priority.”
He added the committee, which only consists of four or five core members, wants to get other Kiwanians on board to help promote the brick campaign, and is meeting with the service club tomorrow.
With more volunteers behind them, more businesses and individuals could be solicited to buy bricks, said Tovey, noting only about 25 percent of local businesses have been properly approached about the bricks due to the fact the core committee only has a few members, all of whom have day jobs.
“With them behind us, I think we can make a significant dent in what we owe,” remarked Tovey. “With their help, we can pay you back.”
One local resident, John Reader, spoke at the meeting expressing concern that if the town helps out the skate park, it’s sending the message that if a local group is “financially irresponsible” with a project, the town will bail them out.
He added he felt it set a bad example for children, and proved that double-standards exist.
But Tovey explained that the skate park committee went ahead with the plans to build the park with the understanding they were close to their fundraising goal, and then experienced some unforeseen costs and overruns once work got underway.