Irate Iqaluit resident draws rapid reaction from city
“Emergency meeting” at playground sparks quick fix
Sometimes, the only way to be sure something is done right is to do it yourself.
That’s just what Iqaluit resident John Manning thought when he found a playground tower looming over the fence that divides his property from a busy playground, right next to his house.
“I was not happy when I got home to see that big tower, standing right in front of me,” said Manning, a resident of the Lower Base neighbourhood in the city centre.
The city’s department of recreation had replaced an old playground unit with a new one, a structure with two slides and tower even taller than his house, which was less than six metres away.
“That one big unit is the main event on the playground,” Manning said, adding that there were “40 kids crawling all over it” when he arrived home from work in the evening on Sept. 11.
Unfortunately, the unit’s tower also offered a perfect view into Manning’s kitchen window.
“I’ve seen kids that would stand there, and they peer in through your window. You can’t even stand there to wash your dinner dishes or anything else without having somebody looking in,” he said. “It’s an intrusion of privacy.”
Manning has lived in his home next to the playground for almost 21 years, he said, and is used to dealing with noisy kids who play in the park well into the evening hours.
But when the city decided to bring the playground tower in “and plunk it down wherever they felt it was appropriate to them, without consulting with anybody,” he knew it was time to take action.
After putting in a call to Iqaluit’s director of recreation that night, Manning contacted as many city councillors as he could the next morning, Sept. 12, asking for an “emergency meeting” at the playground to stop work at the site.
“He told me he was ready to go to jail and stuff like that, so obviously I’m concerned,” said city councillor Kenny Bell, who promptly went to the site on Ben Ell Drive after Manning called him early that morning.
“I’ve known John for years, and I didn’t want to see him go to jail over a playground.”
Manning, who runs his own building maintenance and construction business, said he has complained about many aspects of the park over the years, particularly the lack of safety for kids who play there.
The lack of fencing around the open lot has long been his top complaint. The slide unit’s placement next to the open road was also cause for concern.
This time, Manning’s call for action got full attention.
He managed to draw a crowd of elected officials and city administrators, starting with Bell and fellow councillor Terry Dobbin, and eventually Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer John Hussey and at least two other city directors. Local territorial MLA Monica Ell also appeared.
“Once they seen that I had the extra people involved and concerned about the situation down there, they moved right away,” said Manning. “Next thing you know, the CAO was over and some other city employees were there. This time, they rectified the problem quickly.”
Still, all was not completely solved without a little added help from Manning. After working out an agreement on where to place the tower with city staff, the contractor offered to move it with his own heavy equipment.
“They didn’t have the materials needed, so, me as a contractor I said ‘look, you guys agree to locate [the tower] where I would be satisfied. I will move them with my equipment and my manpower,’” Manning recalled. “So that’s what we did.”
Even though his most pressing issue with the playground was solved, Manning said there are still “a whole lot of issues” to fix at the site.
Most of these relate to safety for kids at the busy playground, he said, starting with a fence to line the lot, plus signage and speed bumps to slow down traffic on Ben Ell Drive.
“I’m not here to complain about the city,” Manning said. “I just need for them to be concerned about having things cleaned up down there, and listen to concerns of others that are in the neighbourhood.”