Council approves replacing outdoor rink and splash park in split vote

by Colin Smith

Construction of an Outdoor Multisport Facility in Morinville and replacement of the Splash Park will go ahead this year despite a major increase in costs.

The estimated cost of building the facility, which replaces the existing outdoor rink, has risen from the initially budgeted $395,000 to $878,800.

The cost of the Splash Park Replacement project has gone from an original $255,000 to $564,200

Town Council made the decision to move forward with the projects at its regular meeting Tuesday, in split votes that saw Mayor Barry Turner, Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein and Councillors Lawrence Giffin and Sarah Hall in favour and Councillors Rebecca Balanko, Stephen Dafoe and Scott Richardson opposed.

The 100 Avenue Curb Extension Project will also be undertaken this year, curbs to be “bubbled” at four intersections along 100 Avenue, at a cost of $263,000, down from the $550,000 originally budgeted.

Additionally, trail development along 100 Street/105 Avenue will take place at a cost of $85,000.

The Park Pavilion in what is now called the Destination Area, a planned tennis court and the replacement of the ageing South Glens and Grandin Heights playgrounds, scheduled for 2021, have been cancelled.

The Trail Missing Shared Use Links (The Lakes) project will also not be moving forward this year, with the $289,750 budgeted for it being reallocated.

All of these projects were approved in the 2021 Capital Budget, with the bulk of their funds being from Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) and Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) grants from the Province. The former funding is received annually and can be carried over. The latter funding is a special job creation grant that can only be spent on approved projects and must be spent in full by Dec. 31, 2021.

Other budgeted funds come from the Town’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Capital Reserve, and the Safety Initiative Reserve, to which traffic photo-enforcement money is directed.

Council was forced to rejig this year’s capital plan by the ballooning costs of the projects in the Destination Area, which were short by $1,506,400, plus a $355,000 shortfall on the 100 Street Improvement Project.

In addition to the rise in costs for the Outdoor Multisport Facility and the Splash Park replacement, the tab for the Park Pavilion went from an initially budgeted $285,000 to a projected $998,400.

The jump in costs for the Destination Area projects resulted from a geotechnical assessment of the area that indicated its subsurface is very high in moisture and silt content and would require sub-cutting and adding aggregate fill for stabilization before building could take place.

The design of the Park Pavilion, intended to be the focal point of the Destination Area, was also deemed inadequate and non-compliant with Alberta Building Standards when reviewed by ISL Engineering, which recommended improvements that increased its costs.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the eventual resolution of the funding puzzle was set out in two successful motions by Giffin, with amendments.

Councillors opposed to the costs of the Outdoor Multisport Facility Splash Park suggested moving one or both to a location with better ground conditions, possibly near the Morinville Leisure Centre.

It was also suggested that to replace the Splash Park this year would mean that it would be unavailable to young people in desperate need out of outdoor fun. Other suggestions included replacing one or both of the playgrounds or expanding the number of intersections in the curb extension program.

A number of council members indicated their exasperation at the cascade of cost increases and resulting project shortfalls, and reluctance to spend the large sums of money involved, even though most was grant funding.

Motion To Hold Off On Projects Fails

A final effort to stop the Splash Park project from proceeding this year was made by Dafoe.

During the discussion of Giffin’s motion to reallocate money from the tennis court and the playgrounds to the Splash Park, along with MSI funds, in an unusual procedure, he put forward an amendment by replacement motion.

The amendment was that all funding from the main motion be held as uncommitted within its respective source, which he said would provide the upcoming Council with the time and information to determine whether the Splash Park was a priority for construction next year.

Dafoe’s motion was defeated, with him, Balanko and Richardson in favour, and Turner, Boutestein, Giffin and Hall opposed.

An earlier motion by Giffin that Council choose a curb extension option that would result in the cost dropping from the budgeted $550,000 to $263,000 was also carried.

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