Preparations are moving ahead for a plebiscite on borrowing money to help pay for the proposed renovations to the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
The plebiscite is set for Oct. 19 in conjunction with the municipal election.
On Sept. 23, Coun. Jason Coakwell, chair of the building committee for the renovations, updated the Hay River Chamber of Commerce on the progress towards the plebiscite.
Coakwell said the Hay River Builders Coalition will present a price for the project by Oct. 1, and information on the business plan will be presented at a public meeting on Oct. 8.
“That’s the plan moving forward,” he said. “And we’ll get out as much information as we can regarding tax implications, cost of financing, all that sort of stuff by then.”
The meeting also heard from Duncan Cooke, president of Arcan Construction Ltd. and a representative of the Hay River Builders Coalition, which formed earlier this year to become involved in the project.
Cooke and Jack Rowe, president of Rowe’s Construction, brought a proposal to council on ways to keep the work in Hay River and lower the cost as much as possible.
“I was quite astounded with the cost estimates on the first go-around,” said Cooke. “And I asked the mayor and council if I could present an unsolicited proposal from a group of local contractors so that we could bring some ideas that may help control the cost and maximize the economic benefits to the community.”
The first meeting was in May and a follow-up occurred in July, and council approved the opportunity for the builders coalition to participate in the first stage of the design and development of the project.
“It’s been a very fast-paced three months,” said Cooke. “We have worked hand-in-hand almost daily with the architectural and engineering team, bringing forward local knowledge and input.”
Cooke said the process is now at the pricing stage, and the coalition will submit a guaranteed maximum upset price that will go to the plebiscite.
A guaranteed maximum upset price is defined as an agreement to perform work and to be reimbursed for actual costs, plus a percentage or fixed fee. A contractor guarantees an agreed maximum price will not be exceeded. Any costs above that would be borne by the contractor.
If the borrowing is approved by plebiscite, town council will then decide who will do the work.
Coakwell stressed the importance of the project.
“Really — this project — it’s become a need of the community, not a want, which is a big difference for the build committee,” he said.
Plus, he also objected to simply calling the project a renovation, saying it’s a modernization and expansion of the facility.
“It’s not just a paint job,” he said, adding that, among other things, the project would mean new change rooms, new storage lockers, a larger community hall, an activity space, a new concession, a walking track and much more.
Coakwell also declined to offer an estimated cost and how that might impact municipal taxes.
“To say there’s any sort of tax implication would be totally speculating at this point,” he said. “I know that’s what everybody wants to know.”
Coakwell said funding is constantly being sought and often obtained from different sources, such as $500,000 from the federal government’s Canada 150 fund.
Plus, he pointed to a large donation from Go Auto announced during the very meeting at which he was speaking.
“We’ve got to raise $1 million less now,” he said. “So all this stuff comes into play.”
At a public information session in late August, he had estimated the project at about $21.3 million.
Coakwell said in a design-build approach as proposed by the Hay River Builders Coalition, more of the onus is on the builders to do what they say they will do.
“This is basically their design,” he said. “They’re going to give us a price to do it. If they missed something in their design, that’s their problem. They need to give us what they said they were going to give us.”
Coakwell was asked what would be Plan B to get the recreation centre renovated, if borrowing is rejected in the plebiscite.
The councillor said the project has to happen, and some other way would have to be found.
Every eligible voter can participate in the plebiscite.