by Tristan Turner
Council has unanimously voted to include a $6 Million Fieldhouse to the first phase of their now $24.3 Million Morinville Recreation centre at their June 27 meeting.
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 come forward with a proposal to build the Field House in conjunction with the first phase of the project, bringing a savings of $5.4 Million, costing a total of $7.1 Million instead of the original budgeted $12.5 Million. This figure is one about a million dollars higher than the $6 Million estimate presented to Council at their Committee of the Whole meeting June 18.
CAO Andrew Isbister reported that making this change would also require removing the walking track component currently slated to be in the main arena building, and transplanting it to the fieldhouse for additional savings.
That evening, Council was presented with two options regarding this proposal. Option one included building the fieldhouse with a running track inside on ground level, option two included raising the running track in the fieldhouse to a second floor, at the expense of $1.5 Million. Mayor Lisa Holmes, who made the motion to adopt the proposed changes, put forward (and unanimously passed) the first option, keeping the running track on the first floor.
Isbister reported back to Council that evening that, while no formal agreement has been met between the County and the Town on the operational contribution of both the Fieldhouse that he expected the county would contribute “in the $100,000 to $150,000 range” for operations annually.
Responding to questions from Councillor Barry Turner at Council’s last Committee of the Whole meeting, Isbister assured Council that he was certain the Town would be well within their self-imposed 85% cap on the utilisation of their debt borrowing limits for either the first or second option on this project.
Isbister also assured Morinville residents should not see too much of a hit on their annual tax bill despite the larger project, as much of the project is funded through federal and provincial grant funding, as well as anticipated donations to the project through Town fundraising. That evening, Isbister reported that the most optimistic anticipated scenario for funding would see a tax impact of around $20 per year, with the worst possible scenario at $72.
All of Council had supportive comments for administration on the proposal to build the fieldhouse sooner at a reduced cost. Councillor Gord Putnam commented that evening saying: “I am very proud… that [administration and Clark Builders] have come up with this proposal to save this money now for us and to spend our money as wisely as we can at this point… [the fieldhouse] will drive economic growth in our town, young families will come to Morinville because of the opportunity to do things in Town that they cannot do today.”
Councillor Stephen Dafoe felt that a fieldhouse is something that a community of Morinville’s size was going to need in the next few years, so he felt they may as well build it now because of the additional savings.
Fieldhouse to come at the cost of delaying new RCMP office, Fire Hall improvements and reduced park maintenance
Isbister confirmed that evening, following multiple questions from Council, that moving forward with the Fieldhouse earlier than expected would have an impact on other capital projects due in the next few years. No projects will be cancelled, but emergency services in Town will likely have new improvements delayed “between two and five years”, according to Isbister that evening.
These delays include a replacement for the Morinville RCMP detachment building, and improvements to the Fire Hall that would have “allowed them to be more available to respond to calls 24/7”, according to David Schaefer, Director of Corporate Operations. These Fire Service improvements include a new fire engine, and additions to the Don Found Fire Station, including dormitories for crew members staying overnight to respond to late-night calls.
Also taking a hit will be annual park improvements, which Isbister claims will be scaled back over the next few years from a budget of $160,000 per year, down to “around $100,000” (the historical amount allocated for parks) to accommodate the additional debenture needing to be repaid.
Fieldhouse delays project a few months; Pool a possibility in as little as 5 years, likely to begin construction within 10
Isbister also informed Council that evening that including the fieldhouse in the project would push the project back a few months, noting it should open in February of 2019 instead of September of 2018 as previously planned.
That evening Mayor Holmes noted that building the fieldhouse together with the arena in the first phase potentially means the timetable for the aquatic centre (including multiple pools and a hot tub) previously in phase three may be moved up as a result of merging the first and second phases of the project. Holmes said: “In 5 years we will have paid off the $10.2 Million off, so at that point, our debt capacity will allow us to build the pool.”
Previous estimates on an aquatic centre came in at $28 million, which is above the Town’s debt limit.
Mayor Holmes has tough words for Sturgeon County
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 at Council’s Committee of the Whole Meeting on June 20: “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 are just replacing the Arena but this would really add value, so it gives [Sturgeon County] a great opportunity to partner up.”
At the June 27 meeting, Mayor Holmes noted that Council has yet to establish an agreement with the County about their participation in the project and its funding, and warned the County that they might have to answer to their residents if they fail to get involved in the project. Holmes said: “We need to come to terms with Sturgeon County, over whether or not they’re going to have participation in this project and what that looks like… at this point, we are moving far enough along and making really sound decisions for the future of the Sturgeon Region that they [the County] need to be at the table to be a full partner in this in some way. If not, they’re going to have to start answering to the people in the region who we’re providing this service for.”
Morinville Residents are invited to a public groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase on June 28 at the Community Cultural Centre at 6 p.m.