Nanaimo city council will ensure that security and needle sweeps at Comox Park can continue year-round.
At a meeting Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, council approved three staff recommendations to spend a total of $69,000 to address safety at parks and public spaces.
The recommendations came after concerns were raised in recent weeks about needles and other messes left behind regularly at Comox Park next to École Pauline Haarer. Councillors, at their March 12 committee of the whole meeting, had asked staff to meet with Nanaimo school district to discuss cleanups and security at shared spaces.
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“Our parks department, our bylaws staff, RCMP and the school [district] have been meeting quite regularly, specifically to deal with Pauline Haarer School, Comox Park and other areas,” said fire chief Karen Fry, the city’s director of public safety.
City bylaws staff walks through the park daily, but the city’s parks and rec department, which has been performing sweeps of the park twice a day, wasn’t going to be able to continue to do so due to increased maintenance duties in the spring and summer months.
Fry’s report, presented to council Monday, recommended that the city allot $24,000 to share the cost, with the school district, of a security guard to watch over the school and park, and $45,000 for one and a half full-time-equivalent seasonal workers to conduct park sweeps, needle pickup and cleanups at 10-12 hot spots including Comox, Maffeo Sutton and Nob Hill parks.
“Not only would they be doing the sweeps, they would be helping look after graffiti, they would be helping look after picking up trash that the homeless leave behind that we’re currently calling out contractors to maintain,” said Al Britton, the city’s manager of parks operations.
Fry’s report also recommended that Comox Park be added to existing day and night security patrols, a no-cost initiative.
Coun. Bill Bestwick spoke in favour of the spending, noting that council had approved $350,000 for spending to address homelessness and saying he supported matching funding for parks safety measures.