The condition of Kirwan Park in Côte St. Luc sparked an extensive social media debate on Côte St. Luc's Facebook page CSL Ideas.
Resident Sivan Rehan wrote that Kirwan Park in District 5 "remains in terrible condition" after six years.
"I'm assuming that the plan to renovate the park is on hold due to the pandemic," she wrote in a message directed at Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and area councillor Mitch Kujavsky. "So maybe it's finally time to simply pave it? Now more than ever our children need a safe outdoor space. Can we please get an update?"
A debate ensued on how much work should be done at the park, and at least one resident called the area "beyond a dump."
Kujavsky responded, writing that he inherited the situation when he took over as District 5 councillor after the last municipal election.
"Yes, I ran for council on the platform of renovating Kirwan Park as soon as possible," he wrote. "However, I wanted to ensure that the mistakes made when Trudeau Park was renovated were not repeated. Specifically, making sure the residents of District 5 get a quality, local park they have waited so long for."
Kujavsky added that a budget was locked in for the first year of his mandate.
"Unfortunately, when we went out to tender for the project, the lowest bid came back more than 40 percent over budget. Moving forward with the project as planned was impossible due to budget shortfall, and slicing out large pieces of the project would mean having an incomplete park and would end up costing taxpayers more down the line."
The councillor said he then lobbied council to add $1 million for the Kirwan renovation project, to bring it up to $3.5 million.
"We now had the breathing room needed in case the bids came back again over budget. We also decided around this time to create a phased project."
Kujavsky explained that Phase 1 of the renovation "will be taking place this coming fall into early spring.
"This first step will involve changing the lights on Kirwan diamond 1 (South field) and some on diamond 2 (North). Phase 2 will follow soon after, which will likely include a chalet, new pathways, lighting, central area (Kildare entrance). Timing of Phase 2, though, depends on another element — a pending grant application submitted in February. The results of this grant will determine whether we proceed with a smaller chalet (bathrooms, storage, changing area for winter skating) or a larger chalet with additional space and features."
Should the grant not come through, "the smaller chalet will be built and Phase 3 of the project will be planned for 2023 or 2024, which will integrate the CSL Tennis Club into Kirwan Park, joining the two areas with walking paths and parking lot and creating another access point into Kirwan."
Kujavsky wrote that he also feels "sad and angry" when he sees Kirwan Park's condition.
"Kirwan is literally the reason I ran for council. That said, spending several thousand taxpayer dollars on paving the central area of Kirwan right now would be completely fiscally irresponsible, given that it would be torn up a year later. As your elected official, if I pushed that spending through the budget, I would strongly consider not voting for myself next year!"
Council regular Tamar Hertz asked Kujavsky that notwithstanding the future renovations, "why is the basic paving not being taken care of in the interim years that residents have to wait for this park?
Kujavsky replied that "it was supposed to have been done last fall, but early cold got in the way. I will re-inquire with Public Works what we can do for a minimal cost, at least to ensure that we level as many areas as possible to remove trip hazards."
Brownstein also responded.
"Councillor Mitch Kujavsky has been focused on the Kirwan Park project since day 1 of his mandate. Unfortunately, the unforeseen often hinders progress, especially with a large capital project like Kirwan. The project has the complete support of Council, City staff and the Mayor's office."
Rehan wrote that she understands the long process involved in the park's renovation.
"But my post is not about that. It is about the fact that until it is done, minimal safety should be achieved by fixing the pavement at the Wentworth entrance to the park so our children can enjoy the park until it is done, a few years from now. I would appreciate your support regarding that."
"While all other parks in the city received enormous budgets from our hard earned taxes, District 5 has been neglected for far too long," wrote council regular Irving Itman.