Peel Plaza park vote narrowly passes

Saint John councillors voted to approve $1.8 million in funding for Peel Plaza's public park area after a heated debate.

Saint John council voted 6-4 to approve $1.8M in funding

Saint John council narrowly voted to fund the completion of the Peel Plaza's public park area on Monday night.

There are few, if any, members of the new Saint John council who support the $42-million Peel Plaza.

But the budget for the controversial police station and parking garage was approved by the previous council and the buildings are nearly done.

Saint John council was left to approve $1.8 million on Monday night that would be put toward work on the public space outdoors, including some infrastructure.

But that plan ran into immediate opposition from several councillors, including Donnie Snook and Susan Fullerton.

The councillors couldn’t bring themselves to approve the work, which had already been budgeted.

"I'm so opposed to the concept of Peel Plaza Park. It is not a park. It is never going to be a park. Nobody is ever going to use it as a park," Fullerton said on Monday night.

The final vote was six to four in favour of extending the $1.8 million in funding.

The Peel Plaza project has turned into a contentious political issue in the city.

The project’s overall cost has made it unpopular with many politicians and residents.

As well, the project has faced several delays.

‘We don’t have a choice’

Coun. Shirley McAlary was one of the six councillors to approve funding to finish the work.

"Are we going to open these buildings with great big piles of earth and rocks and the whatnot that's there?" she said.

"I mean that isn't even practical. We have to go ahead with this. We don't have a choice."

The work on the park will include landscaping, but the public will be invited to donate benches, planters and some trees.