The issue of Delta’s tracks is inching towards a resolution, as council approved a notice of motion on Monday (May 14) to develop an agreement with the Delta School District.
The notice of motion, put forward by Counc. Bruce McDonald, asked that the city work with the district to pursue funding to replace two of Delta’s three aging school tracks: one in North Delta and one in South Delta.
The condition of the tracks has been on the radar for quite some time now.
A year ago, council received a delegation made up of Seaquam track coach Keith Haynes, Burnsview track coach Tim Stielow and B.C. Provincial Football Association representative Cory Philpot, who spoke about the need for a competitive track and field facility in Delta. (At the time, there was no funding for a track in the City of Delta’s five year plan.)
In September, Counc. Jeannie Kanakos submitted a notice of motion to create a joint workshop between council and the school board to discuss options for the tracks. The hope was to have the meeting before council’s business planning workshop, but that did not happen.
In October, the school board invited all levels of government to meet to discuss funding, spurred by the provincial government’s community initiative fund, which would see $30 million distributed to communities over three years.
Then in November, North Delta Secondary teacher Gary Sandhu sent letters to council about the condition of the school’s track, saying its poor drainage and material often made it a hazard for both students and community members.
“I can tell you, I’ve had more emails and discussion with people over this issue than almost anything else I’ve been involved in, because there’s people who have been advocating for a track for years,” McDonald said at council on Monday.
“The track is used not just for track meets, it’s a safe place for people to walk … So all we’re doing is saying we should pursue an agreement, and if we can get to it … we would be silly not to move that forward.”
His notice of motion indicated the possibility of using funding from the provincial and federal government’s bilateral agreement to support local facilities. Right now, the federal government has set aside $157 million for B.C. over 10 years earmarked for playgrounds and recreation centres.
However, as parks, recreation and culture director Ken Kuntz noted, that funding wouldn’t eligible for school-based initiatives. Although the exact eligibility requirements for the funding aren’t known, it is fairly clear the project would have to be a tangible capital asset, and the city would have to maintain and have ownership over it.
This is something Mayor Lois Jackson struggled with during the discussion of the notice of motion.
“Is is proper for Delta to pursue this?” she asked. “Or is it more proper or appropriate for the school board to pursue this given than its their land and it’s not our land.”
Currently, the tracks are on land owned and maintained by the Delta School District. This land issue is one of the key things council will have to sort out if it decides to move forward in supporting tracks in Delta, Kuntz said.
Historically, Jackson has said the tracks are not Delta’s responsibility. In a letter to the North Delta Reporter in December 2017, she wrote that “inasmuch as we are very supportive of upgrading the track, the Delta school board will have to take the initiative for upgrading their field and instigate other committed funds to assist with their project.”
This sentiment was not shared by the councillors.
“Although tracks have not necessarily been … ‘on the list,’ there is a need for them in our communities,” Kanakos said. “It may be that down the road the decision is that the sites would not be on school board property, but that’s for us to sort out by acting on this motion.”
Counc. Robert Campbell noted that it’s important to move the topic forward.
“There is time to digest and move this forward to the point where there could be a substantive funding application or grant application made,” he said. “What we need to be is positioned to be able to make those applications.
“We always talk about taking advantage of opportunities, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position where we miss an opportunity going forward.”
The notice of motion passed 5-1, with Jackson opposed. Counc. Ian Paton was not present.