EDITORIAL: Cash over safety
It’s easy to imagine why Penticton city council is unwilling to spend $28,000 to make a section of railing along the newly refurbished waterfront a bit safer for toddlers.
After all, they have been getting a lot of heat lately for some of their spending choices: $150,000 to replace the tiles around the community pool, $12,000 to send out new tax notices after billing taxpayers the wrong rate on the first ones. Both expenses, it can be argued, were necessary. Taxpayers needed to clearly understand the tax they needed to pay, and as for tiles in the community pool, well, the cost is high, but then so was the maintenance going to keep the original tiles from being so slippery that a serious injury was inevitable.
Then, too, so is fixing the problem with the open railings at the waterfront shown by an incident in March, where a three-year-old slipped through the railing and fell into the lake below. The toddler, luckily, was uninjured, but it pointed out a serious problem with the railings. Council, however, had no taste for spending the between $14,000 and $28,0000 to fill in the gaps as recommended by the Waterfront Enhancement Select Committee. That would have seen the lower half of the railings filled with perforated metal panels to, hopefully, prevent another child from having a similar accident.
That in itself might have been enough. But coupled with the warnings from staff that not taking action might expose the city to unknown liability, it should have been a slam dunk. It wasn’t. Instead, the city’s councillors argued that they can’t childproof the whole city, and children could still climb over the new railing and fall in.
True enough. But even if that should happen, resulting in an accident and lawsuit, at least they city could show the judge it acted responsibly and tried to mitigate the problem. That’s not an argument it will be able to use after deciding no action is the best action. Which is worse: spending $28,000 now or ending up with a injured child and a $1 million lawsuit a few years from now?