Residents raise concerns about ward cleanliness and mental health supports during Ward 3 Town Hall Meeting

Parks and Open Space Manager Tim Yeaman speaks to attendees during the Ward 3 Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, May 15. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Clayton Cottingham has picked up a lot of garbage since moving to Prince Albert, and not because he’s paid to either.

The Ward 3 resident has disposed of everything from fast food wrappers and chicken bones to rubber inner tubes that are blown or thrown onto his lawn. Cottingham said he tries to do his best to keep his yard and street clean, but the buildup is frustrating.

On Wednesday night, he was among the residents who gathered at the Midtown Hall seeking solutions at the Ward 3 Town Hall Meeting.

“If they’d just put it in my garbage, I’d be happy with that, you know what I mean?” Cottingham said during an interview afterwards.

“I try to do my best in mutual aid. I think that’s the way to go. I think we all have to help each other out, and I think that’s the only way forward, right, so that’s why I came here tonight.”

For Cottingham and others who attended Wednesday’s meeting, the garbage blowing through the ward is just a symptom of two bigger problems: poverty and poor public mental health. He said some Prince Albert residents have no home of their own, and are dealing with significant mental challenges, which leads to other problems like garbage piling up on his lawn, or someone partially burning down his backyard fence after starting a fire.

Ideally, he’d like to see more proactive solutions that help get people off the streets.

“Shopping carts are always in the back alley and I have to take them somewhere, right, to get rid of them,” Cottingham explained. “If I leave them where they are, they’re going to set more fires, so there’s just a level of extra work I have to do because of the situation not being dealt with proactively.

“I think a lot of the situations with safe injection sites and more mental health programs would definitely help with that, but I’m probably in the minority on that sort of situation,” he added. “I think this is a health issue, not a crime issue for the most part.”

Cottingham wasn’t alone in his concerns. He and other residents had a chance to raise these concerns with various City of Prince Albert department heads and Ward 3 Coun. Tony Head on Wednesday.

In an interview afterward, Head said the City already has events like pitch-in week, which have helped clean up various neighbourhoods. He’s open to holding more than one pitch-in week a year to build on that momentum, however, he also said there is a social impact that can’t be addressed by just picking up garbage.

Ward 3 Coun. Tony Head listens to a question during the Ward 3 Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, May 15. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

“That’s been an ongoing challenge for at least for my term and I know before that,” he said. “It’s been ongoing and I don’t know if we’re gaining any ground on it. The province needs to assist.”

Head said the City has hired Community Safety and Well Being Coordinator Anna Dinsdale to help address some of those. Dinsdale was in attendance on Thursday to outline some of the city’s recent initiatives, like the search for a site that can house a permanent 24/7 emergency homeless shelter.

Head said Dinsdale has been a great addition to the city, but added that there is still a lot of hard work ahead, and the City can’t do it alone.

“Residents want to see action and that was loud and clear last night,” Head said. “I know our staff heard it. Our police heard it—our chief—and I got that message loud and clear from the residents as well, and I guess that could mean lobbying the provincial government more.”

Wednesday’s meeting was the second of three ward meetings schedule for this week. Residents met in Ward 7 on Tuesday, and in Ward 8 on Thursday.

New recreation facilities scheduled to open in Ward 3 this summer

COVID-19 may have slowed down playground construction, but it hasn’t stopped it.

Parks and Open Space Manager Tim Yeaman said the City had to delay construction on a new playground and spray park in the Midtown area by one year. However, the $700,000 project is in progress and scheduled for completion by the end of June.

“I remember when I started at the city seven years ago, you used to be able to order a playground in February, have it here by June, and have it installed in a month, and that’s not the case anymore,” Yeaman told those in attendance. “You actually have to order a playground. It takes up to a year for it to be manufactured, for it to be shipped to a location, and to be installed.”

Once open, the new playground and spray park will have benches, picnic space, shade covers, and brand new lighting to make it easier for police and bylaw officers to track criminal activity that may occur outside of regular usage.

Yeaman said the City is also looking at installing security cameras to protect its investment.

If “all the starts align,” Yeaman said, invitations to the grand opening should be sent out by the end of June.

“When we do projects like this, I certainly look at legacy,” Yeaman told those in attendance. “Everything that we’re do today makes a difference for somebody tomorrow. I know we have a lot of things that maybe we don’t consider to be good that happen in the community—vandalism and destruction—but that’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue to push ahead and give the children of this community a better place to live.”