A council committee has endorsed giving back to London, Ont., neighbourhoods surrounding the city’s two COVID-19 assessment centres, which are located at Oakridge Arena and Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre.
The act of gratitude was first proposed in a letter to the committee from Mayor Ed Holder, Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer and Ward 8 Coun. Steve Lehman.
In the letter, the council members wrote they want to provide compensation for the “substantial impacts in the neighbhourhoods where the testing centres are located, especially in terms of unusually high volumes of traffic, including very long queues before the appointment system was implemented.”
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The council members seek to provide compensation in the form of upgrades to indoor or outdoor recreational amenities in the area, following consultation with neighbourhood residents.
“To give a sense of the scale we are contemplating, the wading pool in McMahen Park could be upgraded to a splash pad,” the letter added.
On Tuesday, councillors sitting on the community and protective services committee (CPSC) had their first chance to discuss the matter, giving the three who wrote the letter an opportunity to elaborate.
Lehman, who represents the area that housed the Oakridge Assessment Centre, noted that security and logistical concerns had sprung up as soon as the facilities were established.
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“For well over a month, long lines of cars snaked down over a kilometre long into the neighbourhoods from morning to night. These are neighbourhoods where there are two schools, so school children were walking to and from … through idling cars that were slowly moving their way through,” Lehman said.
“While the rest of us could go home at night, they went home to where the effect of COVID was in their face day after day.”
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Both Holder and Helmer noted that despite the impacts of the centres, residents nearby voiced few complaints, which the politicians agreed speaks to the character of the people in the neighbourhood.
“Sometimes, when somebody goes above and beyond, just saying thank you isn’t quite enough,” Holder said.
Helmer, who represents the area that houses the Carling Assessment Centre, said he hopes the city can provide a long-lasting asset for the neighbourhoods.
“Especially a recreation amenity — we found out how important those were once COVID hit and people started to use parks in ways they hadn’t in the past … I think it’s an appropriate kind of thing,” Helmer said.
CPSC members voted unanimously in favour of endorsing the letter and its directives.
If approved by full city council, city staff will consult with residents in the neighbourhood while also exploring potential funding avenues through the provincial and federal governments.
Council gets the final say when it meets on Aug. 10.
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