by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
Following a surprise special meeting of Council, Council will be reviewing an opportunity presented to administration to save half the cost of the planned Field House in the new Morinville Arena project.
The Fieldhouse was slated to be built at a later stage, likely years after the impending completion of the first phase of the project (including a new hockey arena and other building amenities). However, the Town’s Construction Manager, Clark Builders, has recently informed by their administration that building the Field House in conjunction with the first phase of the project would bring a savings of $6.5 Million, costing a total of $6 Million instead of the original budgeted $12.5 Million.
Council called the meeting with no notice in the middle of their last Committee of the Whole meeting of their term on June 20.
CAO Andrew Isbister reported to Council the update and took several questions. Isbister shared that evening that this change would also require removing the walking track component currently slated to be in the main arena building, requiring it to be transplanted to the Field House for additional savings.
Council made no decisions that evening, and accepted the update for information, unanimously tabling a discussion on the matter for their next regular meeting of council on June 27. Council did request some specific pieces of information for administration to bring back to inform the decision, including Councillor Dafoe, who requested that administration bring back information on what the interest difference on a 5, 10 or 15-year debenture on the arena would cost, given the additional upfront expense.
Councillor Dafoe probed Isbister on how confident administration was on these numbers, at an estimated cost of $6 Million. Isbister responded saying: “[Clark Builders] have indicated that the cost to build the Field House incorporating the savings from the Arena would be $4.7 Million, and we’ve added $1.3 Million in soft costs to pay for architecture work, building permits, putting things in it, [incorporating the running track], we put that at $1.3 Million, so that is about a 30 per cent contingency fund… So, I would say we’re about 90 per cent comfortable with that $6 Million budget.”
Dafoe also asked for some information to come back on what the expired operating costs for the facility in both scenarios to be, and what they could expect Sturgeon County to agree to through their cost sharing agreement with Sturgeon County if provisions exist in the agreement for a Field House.
Councillor Barry Turner also noted that Council has passed a policy in the past to not use more than 80 per cent of their maximum debt allotment at any time, and asked the administration to confirm that moving forward with this larger project upfront will not set the Town over that limit. Isbister commented that he was uncertain if it would be over the limit, but if it were, he would bring forward options for council to proceed with the debenture despite the debt policy.
Council currently has a debt limit of $28 Million, and the arena project is budgeted to cost $17 Million, of which $11 million would be borrowed. If a field house is included, total cost would be $23 Million at the budgeted $6 Million for the added facility. This change would put borrowing right up against the 80 per cent limit in council policy, at approximately $17.6 Million. Previous estimates on an aquatic centre came in at $28 million.
Council also noted that they should have a discussion with the Council of Sturgeon County on a potential increase in their contribution to the centre, given the increased costs of the project. Councillor Turner said “Obviously, the addition of this much additional debt for the community, bringing on a partnership offers Sturgeon County the opportunity to bring on some real value to the table for their residents, as well as ours. Especially with the Field House is a recreational opportunity that we are missing, we’re just replacing the Arena but this would really add value, so it gives [Sturgeon County] a great opportunity to partner up”.
Following this, Council passed unanimous motions to provide the same information to Sturgeon County’s Council at their June 27 meeting for their consideration and bring forward a funding request for Sturgeon County to the Inter-Municipal Affairs Committee Meeting on July 4.
Council will have a full discussion on all their options moving forward with the project, with updates from administration, at the June 27.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for the first phase on June 28.