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baseball 560Hub Staff

Two motions were a swing and a miss before a third hit home with councillors gaining their approval for staff to look into funding for two new active ball diamonds in Saugeen Shores during the October 23 Committee of Whole.

The original motion saw Director of Community Services Jayne Jagelewski present a recommendation that would see staff ask for budget pre-approval for retrofitting Jubilee Park’s back ball diamond at a cost of $45,000 with 90 percent of the funding coming from Development Charges while the other 10 percent would come from Parks Reserve.

The back diamond hasn’t been used since the 1990s and under this motion it would accommodate minor ball teams which saw approximately 330 children play in 2017; and Ladies Slo Pitch teams which consisted of 21 teams in 2017.

Councillor Neil Menage worried about the proximity to the other ball diamond that is currently being used at Jubilee Park, and the safety concerns that a home run hit by a men’s team could impose if it went over the fence and onto the back ball diamond.

Jagelewski said the men’s A and B teams are not scheduled to play at Jubilee. “But Men’s ‘C’ does,” said Menage who then said he has seen a C player “crush it over the top of the fence.”

Jagelewski was quick to point out that other user groups such as the Ladies Slo Pitch “can hit the ball quite hard too,” after which Menage quickly changed course.

“I just want to be sure for the safety,” he said and presented a second idea that user groups should be able to pay 10 percent in funding for the new diamond, an option he later included as a motion that ultimately did not pass. Menage said the $45,000 was a “drop in the bucket” and supported the Jubilee back diamond.

“Even though it sounds like a lot of money, I don't think it is in the big scheme of building ball diamonds,” said the councillor.

Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber said it was unfortunate the recommendation was not presented with the Recreation and Active Transportation Committee. ”Seems like we’re rushing to spend money when we haven't yet seen the full slate... that is budget 2018,” said Huber, adding “it appears like it’s free money.”

Huber then mentioned that the Parks Reserve appears to be in a negative position. She called the Jubilee back diamond “a nice bandage solution that’s valuable” but added it seems “we’re spending money that we don't have (Parks Reserve)... or we thought that we were collecting for something else (Development Charges).”

Councillor Mike Myatt was disappointed with the recommendation as he had hoped that staff would have come up with pricing for two ball diamonds with the second being at Biener Park.

Before the initial recommendation was defeated Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau said he wasn’t yet convinced. “We’re talking about putting in a ball diamond which will not serve all users, it will only serve rookie and mosquito and ladies... which seems a little incongruous to me, because I think adult women can probably hit the ball further than most rookies and mosquitos.” Charbonneau then added, “in an ideal world we would invest lots of money like $45,000 in ball complexes that could serve all users... I haven't seen those options yet.”

Councillor Don Matheson spoke about the growing number of young athletes in the community. “We have a unique situation in this town where our numbers have grown in a sense that most people do not realize the number of young people we have involved in sports throughout this town... we have to be able to take the pressure off now and I believe this is a good plan.”

Town CAO David Smith reminded councillors that the idea of using Jubilee’s back diamond coincides with the Recreation Master Plan. “Their recommendation is specific to this, it says the Town creates a sports field complex and provides two lit diamonds over the next five years to alleviate current pressures, so the staff’s perspective is to follow the Master Plan and the recommendation was described as a temporary investment not the end goal, the end goal adheres to the Master Plan,” said Smith.

In the end a new motion presented by Councillor Mike Myatt was passed by councillors. The motion stated that council authorize staff to proceed with obtaining pricing for retrofitting Jubilee’s back diamond; and second that staff prepare pricing for the installation of one additional lit ball diamond at the Biener Park complex. Results for both are to be presented at the December 5 budget meeting.

See also: An immediate need for more ball diamonds in Saugeen Shores