After consulting with the City of Calgary, the decision has been made to keep Somerset waterpark closed for the remainder of the 2020 season. This is disappointing news for many, which we understand.
The decision to keep our waterpark closed was based on capacity and safety for residents and operators. Our maintenance contracts did not have the workforce and time to open and operate this season (more details below in e-mail transcript). The health and safety of our residents is always our top concern and we did not want to put anyone at risk.
Again, we are very sorry to bring you this news. However, next year we will be looking forward to a new waterpark. Construction start date has yet to be determined but is scheduled for some time in 2021. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.
You probably have several questions and we would like to address them here.
- WITH THE WATERPARK STAYING CLOSED FOR SUMMER OF 2020, DO I STILL NEED TO PAY MY ASSOCIATION FEES?
Answer: Yes. We have other financial obligations with the City of Calgary to uphold such as lawn care, landscaping and snow removal which are all ongoing expenses. We also have a new Agreement with the City for a NEW waterpark which is scheduled to start construction in 2021. A separate announcement will be made later this summer and at the AGM regarding the new Maintenance Agreement we have which includes a new waterpark in 2021 for the Somerset community.
- IF THE PARK IS CITY OWNED AND NOW CITY OPERATED WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE A RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION?
Answer: The Residents Association was originally created to enhance the local community park and provide feature to residents that were not normally budgeted for regular City parks. The extra things we have are a waterpark, bathrooms, tennis courts, park lighting, extra pathways and landscaping, picnic tables and extra playgrounds. None of that would be there without the Somerset Residents Association AND everyone who lives here is a member.
- CAN WE HIRE A SEPARATE CONTRACTOR TO OPEN THE PARK FOR THE YEAR?
Answer: The waterpark/pool maintenance contract we used last year is also the main City contractor as well. With the new demands placed on this contract the City of Calgary couldn’t open all of their parks either. Also, under the new Maintenance Agreement, the day to day operations falls under City management. Therefore, we cannot hire separate contracts to open the waterpark. For further clarification, Somerset has never privately owned any of the structures or features at the park, it has always been City property; we just get to have extra features if we buy them and maintain them.
- HOW CAN I HELP THE SOMERSET RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION?
Answer: We need new Board members and volunteers to help run the Somerset Residents Association. Currently we have the bare minimum of 3 Board members. There appears to be little interest from the community to join our Board of Directors and volunteer time to help keep Somerset a thriving community. If you have time, we would gladly accept help to manage this Association. It is a voluntary position.
Below is our correspondence with the Parks Department at the City of Calgary and the conversation we had with them.
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Thank you for updating us as to the status of the park for 2020. It’s unfortunate that the we are unable to open the Somerset waterpark for the 2020 season. Just to reiterate, The Somerset Residents Association and the City of Calgary has reached a new Agreement to share the management and maintenance of the Somerset Park and waterpark facilities.
To fulfill my duties as a Board member, I must represent the community as a whole and ask the following questions:
- Why was this decision made to keep Somerset waterpark closed for 2020, yet open other facilities? Please be as detailed as possible.
The City of Calgary has eight spray parks and splash pads. When the original State of Emergency was issued, due to the Covid -19 Pandemic, spray parks and splash parks were not expected to be allowed to open until at least the end of August. As such, no action was taken to begin inspecting any of them, and the contract with the operator/contractor was terminated. Then the Alberta Government’s Relaunch Strategy was issued, which escalated the reopening of spray parks and splash pads to Stage 2 which took effect June 15th. This left us very little time to try and activate at least some of the spray park sites and re-activate the contract with the spray park operator.
With such short notice a decision was made to only open four of the eight this 2020 season. These four sites include:
· Rotary Park – 617 1 St. NE – July 1, 2020
· South Glenmore Park (Variety Park) – 90 Ave. & 24 St SW – July 1,
· Bowness Park – 8900 48 Ave NW – July 6, 2020
· Prairie Winds Park – 223 Castleridge Blvd NE – July 10, 2020
The four not opened this year, include Riley Park, Eau Clare, Valleyview Park, and Somerset Towne Square. They will not be opening this summer, due to logistical constraints. These constraints include the capacity of our Facility Management group to inspect the mechanical systems to ensure they are functioning properly. As well, they would need to ensure the strict and enhanced protection controls outlined in the Alberta Government’s Guidance for Outdoor Spray Parks and Wading Pools, are put into place. Also, the contractor who operates these spray parks and splash pads, currently only has the capacity to staff four of the eight sites.
- As far as my understanding goes, Somerset was re-zoned a regional park. If we are a regional park, why are we excluded from the regional waterparks that are opening?
Although Somerset Towne Square was recently given Regional Park Status, it can’t compare to the size and draw of the four regional parks that were selected.
- If the park can’t operate this season what does that do to the Contract/Agreement? The City can shut down the waterpark, but that would also terminate the contract and would essentially stop all payments made by Somerset to the City of Calgary for maintenance and operating costs.
The current agreement states: “The parties acknowledge that during the payment term of this Letter of Agreement there may come into force laws or by-laws, or such other rules or regulations by which The City is legally bound that affect the ability of The City to operate or conduct Maintenance or both, on the splash/spray park area. In the event of such an occurrence, the parties agree that The City may, in its sole discretion, convert the splash/spray park area in accordance with section 11.5 of the Agreement.” Although this clause speaks to bylaws, rules, or regulations that might force the need to convert the spray park in the future. The State of Emergency that was issued due to the Covid -19 Pandemic, is an example of one such regulation that impacted our ability to activate and operate the Somerset Spray Park, but thankfully only for this summer. The payments that have been made by the Somerset Residents Resident’s Association to date, will continue to be kept in trust to use towards future operational and maintenance costs, as well as the spray park’s upcoming redevelopment and future lifecycle replacement.
- As we have paid our installment to fulfill the Agreement for 2020 and we do remain closed for 2020, will we be partially compensated for this season’s waterpark closure? If we were still privately contracting Benchmark (Pool maintenance contractor) and we did get the OK to open from the province (stage #3) which we have, Benchmark would most likely be able to fit us into the schedule as they did last year. We would also be able to privately hire another maintenance company and operate independently as we have done so for over 20 years. Please clarify this situation. To me this seems to be more of a quick cost saving factor rather than a labor shortage.
As noted in my response to question 3, the payments that have been made by the Somerset Residents Resident’s Association, will continue to be kept in trust to use towards future operational and maintenance costs, as well as the spray park’s upcoming redevelopment and future lifecycle replacement. As we already have the funds available to operate the spray park, the decision to not open the Somerset Spray Park this summer, is not about cost savings. It is all about capacity. The steps required to inspect and ensure the mechanical systems are functioning as required, are comprehensive and take a significant amount of time. As an example, it took a different Residents Association two weeks of steady work to get their spray park ready for opening. As noted earlier, there are number of Provincial Government protocols (Guidance for Outdoor Spray Parks and Wading Pools) that also need to be put into place.
The operator you have used in the past, and that one that we use, has indicated they currently have enough staff to operate four of the eight spray parks. Although they have indicated they do have the potential to hire more staff, the capacity of our Facility Management group, to get the mechanical system inspected and ready for operation by the contractor, is still an issue. It is important to note that given the poor condition of the Somerset Spray Park’s mechanical system right now, there is a reasonable chance a mechanical issue could be discovered during the inspection process, that would make opening the Somerset Spray Park impossible. Also, we know it does not meet current Alberta Health and Safety Standards.
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