Time for City of Alberni to step up for Weaver Park

Alberni can't lend money to a group to finish a kids' playground. But it loaned the chamber of commerce money in February.

We sympathize with Port Alberni city council on the number of requests they must field for financial assistance each year. But when citizens who have stepped up to clean up their neighbourhood park are summarily dismissed, we find it incomprehensible.

Neighbours wanting to revitalize Weaver Park approached the city for some advice in June.

They found grants to apply for, including one from the non-profit Let Them Be Kids, which helps fund community playgrounds. The organization has never before accepted a proposal for Vancouver Island, but Weaver Park caught its eye and it unexpectedly gave the committee a $35,000 matching funds grant—the final one given out for 2011. The only catch is the money has to be spent by Dec. 31.

The grant caught the committee by surprise, and suddenly they are having to raise thousands of dollars in a very short period of time—to revitalize a park owned by the city.

That the city would slam the cheque book shut for this community group after nary batting an eye at coughing up a $300,000 loan to the chamber of commerce earlier this year is mind-boggling.

The chamber executive came to the city, proverbial cap in hand, saying they were short the $300,000 required to finish their visitors’ centre. They asked for a short-term loan, which the city quickly granted.

The Weaver Park committee is asking for less than $30,000, or 10 per cent of the chamber’s request, and they’re willing to continue fundraising to pay it back. Yet Coun. Hira Chopra says “there’s no way we could write you a cheque for $20,000.”

Why not?