City council has awarded a contract to R&A Excavation for $101,896.16+HST to complete soil remediation work at Hollinger Park.
The issue of the soil in the historic park has been discussed in the council chambers several times in the last year and a half after reports of higher than normal levels of certain metals were discovered. The soils were left over from mining operations many decades ago. Some on council even questioned the legitimacy of the reports.
With it now being fall, and the city having approved a sophomore edition of the city-run Stars and Thunder Festival for summer 2018, there are legitimate questions about the park's condition moving forward.
"We really have to move on this because we have a very short growing season left before the new Stars and Thunder festival occurs," said Councillor Pat Bamford during last week's city budget meeting.
He had concerns about the plans to hydro-seed the park, instead of using sod, and didn't want to see a Woodstock like scenario at next year's shindig.
"I really want to be assured that the grass that's going to come from hydro-seeding is going to grow fast enough that the roots are in the ground, otherwise we've just got a mud bowl, and that would really be a bad experience in that park."
"My thinking is we should spend the extra dollars, and put in sod," added Bamford, a suggestion which ultimately went nowhere.
The project will see a layer of 'geotextile' installed, and a minimum of 0.5 metres of soil on top, with hydroseed over 5.67 acres in the park. A city report stated that sod would cost an additional $106,000 compared to the hydroseed option.
A total of five bids were received by the city for the project which ranged in price from the accepted low end of $101,896.16+HST, to $249,749.50.
The work will only take place on the south side of the park, which contains Fred Salvador Field and acted as the festival grounds for Stars and Thunder. Work on the parking lot and north section of the park will be completed next year, after council approves a park re-design.
It was also made clear by Mayor Steve Black that the Timmins Men's Baseball League will eventually be returning to Fred Salvador Field, but it won't be in 2018. The league was forced by the City of Timmins to play the 2017 season at a smaller field on the grounds of Ecole Secondaire Theriault. This led to rumblings in the community that sports could be phased out of the park completely.
"So yes, at this point in time, city council's comments and directive to staff is to plan the park rehabilitation so that baseball returns to Hollinger Park," said Black.
Councillor Noella Rinaldo inquired about how the situation with the 'Sk8te Hollinger' group would be handled. Local businessman and project spearhead Ken Pye recently announced his intention to build up to 27 ice sheets, in addition to the NHL sized rink, and giant figure-8 track in the park this winter.
"Will they be having access to that park? Have they started that procedure?" she asked.
Black told her that Pye had reached out to him after the concept went public.
"I advised him that he would be best to approach staff, see what their plans for remediation are, and whether or not the park would be useable, or alternate locations," he said.
Director of Community and Development Services Mark Jensen added there would be a detailed discussion taking place this week between city officials and the Sk8te Hollinger group.
"I do have some reservations about doing the rinks on the south side of the park, because I think we have to get the hydro seed in there as soon as possible in order to have greater success next year, to have it ready for public use," said Jensen.
"So doing sod or hydro seed now and putting a rink on top of it might not be the best thing to do this year."
"Would it be better to wait for sod until the spring?," asked Rinaldo.
"The advice we've been given to is try and do it as soon as possible," replied Jensen, who added there are other potential locations for the rinks.