Council gets further details on overbudget projects ahead of decision this week

by Colin Smith

Grant funding received from the province could be shifted among Morinville capital projects in certain circumstances, Council has learned.

The information provided to Council at its Committee of the Whole meeting last Tuesday was the result of Chief Administrative Officer Stephane Labonne contacting Municipal Affairs for clarification about the use of Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) grant funds.

Reallocation of MSP funds from an approved project with a surplus to an approved project with a deficit is allowed. However, funding may not be reallocated to a project that has not been approved under the program.

That information becomes part of Council’s discussion of ways of dealing with a recently identified $640,000 Capital Budget shortfall for 2021.

The issue was considered at Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, having previously come up at its May 11 regular meeting.

At that time Council was informed that improvements to 100 Street and the East Boundary Road trail work would cost $355,000 more than was budgeted and that $285,000 more was needed for the planned Park Pavilion, doubling its price.

The Park Pavilion is intended to be the focal point of what is now referred to as the Destination Area, in the vicinity of the former Ray MacDonald Sports Complex.

It is one of three projects in the area, along with a replacement Splash Park, budgeted at $255,000, and the Outdoor Multisport Facility, an outdoor ice rink, projected to cost $395,000.

The jump in price for the Park Pavilion was identified as being due to an inadequate initial design. An engineering review found it did not comply with Alberta Building Standards and recommended the improvements that increased its cost.

At the May 11 meeting, Administration put forward proposals to rework the Capital Budget to cover the extra costs of the 100 Street and trail work and the Park Pavilion.

It recommended $289,750 be reallocated from the 2021 Missing Links Trail (The Lakes) project to the 100 Street improvements, with the remainder coming from unused funds from previous years’ Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grants. The $255,000 in funds for the replacement of the Splash Park would be diverted to the Park Pavilion, with the Splash Park to be budgeted for completion next year. Preparatory work to be completed by Morinville staff and equipment would make up for $30,000 of the increased cost.

However, the recommendation to delay the Splash Park to meet the greatly increased cost of the Park Pavilion did not sit well with many Council members. It was proposed that the project go ahead this year, instead of the pavilion.

But the situation is complicated by the fact that all three Destination Area projects are funded by MSI and Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) grants from the Province. While the use of the MSI funds has no time restriction, MSP funds must be used within a year of approval.

As directed by Council, Chief Labonne contacted Municipal Affairs for clarification about the possible reallocation of the funds.

At the same meeting, Councillor Leonard Giffin proposed that the MSP funds budgeted for curb extension on 107 Street could be diverted to the Discovery Area projects, because the extension is not needed there.

Council then directed Administration to review the curb extension report and bring it before the Committee of the Whole meeting.

As indicated by the presentation at Committee of the Whole, in the Transportation Master Plan curb extensions are identified as a high priority for increasing pedestrian safety. A total of 12 extensions are planned at the intersections of 100 Avenue at 102, 104 and 107 Streets, and 101 Avenue at 100 Street.

Councillors were presented with four options to consider, with the Administration recommending Option E, a non-integrated slab-on curb extension with no sidewalk work and optional planter.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the issue was referred to the May 25 regular council meeting for further consideration.

A subsequent motion by Councillor Scott Richardson asked Administration to provide cost information for the implementation of one of the curb extension options. Another moved by Councillor Stephen Dafoe called on Administration to get a definitive answer from Municipal Affairs about whether MSP funds from a cancelled approved project could be reallocated to a previously considered project. A third subsequent motion by Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein requested information on what Morinville could expect in a Park Pavilion reduced in scope and price.

All of these subsequent motions were carried unanimously.

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