Thorold City Council has decided to fast track the creation of the Indigenous healing garden in Mel Swart Park, in hopes of finishing the project in time for Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30.
As ThoroldToday reported, a new City Hall report slated the project for next year when it was to be discussed at the 2023 budget deliberations, but this was not to the liking of several city councillors.
At Tuesday night’s city council meeting councillor Fred Neale took to the floor to voice his disagreement with the decision.
“Now is the time when it should happen, not next year or the year after,” councillor Neale told fellow council members. “This is when Indigenous people are looking for ways of healing, ways of moving forward. This is an international story. Thorold should be a part of it.”
City Hall had estimated the costs of the project to be anywhere between $65,000 and $75,000 but councillor Neale said that the garden would cost $50,000 or less.
“I have already discussed this with a couple of corporate organizations who are willing to donate,” he said. “$17,750 is already being donated by Dean McLellan Stonework, who will create the garden so take that off that particular figure.“
Many other council members agreed with councillor Neale but not everyone was on board with the decision to fast track the garden.
“I support the project, I’m just not sure it needs to move this fast,” councillor Anthony Longo said. “There’s a lot of opinions here that the money will be raised through various means and I’m not quite sure if that can happen. If we can’t, where does the money come from?”
Mario Mauro, the city’s director of finance, answered that money would have to come out of the city’s encumbrance reserves.
“It’s a matter of prioritization by council what projects they wish to advance during the year,” she explained.
In the end, the majority of city council agreed that the garden was important enough to fast track and realize this year, on the condition that any funds raised will be put back into the city’s reserves.