Town council has set a new target for the cost to renovate the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
At a discussion of the town’s 10-year capital budget on March 29, most councillors present agreed that the target should be $19.2 million, a significant decrease from the previous estimate of $24.5 million.
The new figure appeared to puzzle Coun. Jason Coakwell, who wondered how it had dropped $5 million.
“Are we going to give the ratepayers the project that they voted on?” he asked, referring to the plebiscite in the fall in which town residents supported the idea of borrowing $15 million for the project.
Coun. Kandis Jameson said the bottom line is the community cannot afford a $25 million renovation to the rec centre, and borrowing $15 million would put the town at its borrowing limit.
“Borrowing $15 million for this community leaves us with zero if something happens,” she said. “There is no buffer if there was an emergency, if we had a flood, which has happened in the past, if we had a big wildfire.”
Jameson said she didn’t believe anyone would personally borrow to the max.
“So I don’t think we should be doing it to our community,” she said.
Jameson added borrowing $15 million would be “irresponsible” for the community.
Deputy mayor Donna-Lee Jungkind said she didn’t think anyone on council believed the town should borrow to the maximum but she had no problem leaving the estimated cost at $19.2 million.
Jungkind said a request for proposals (RFP) had been sent out for the project.
“I think there’s other lobbying and other fundraising that this council and this community needs to do, and I think let’s leave it the way it is and see what comes back from the RFP,” she said.
The RFP was issued on March 23 and the closing date is April 27.
Coakwell objected to “undervaluing” the project cost, arguing the town needs to show the project cost for what it’s worth and find the revenue.
Mayor Brad Mapes said it does not hurt to have the $19.2 million figure in the budget.
“We sent the RFP out there as what the people wanted. The RFP has not changed,” he said. “So if Joe Blow Contracting is seeing that that number is there, they come in there, they look at the bid, and they have to come out and try to give us a number. If we put a number in that’s high, then the number is not going to come back to our liking. So I think it doesn’t hurt us to be putting that low number in there.”
Five councillors voted in favor of keeping the $19.2 million figure in the budget, while Coakwell voted against.
Speaking later last week, Mapes said, once council sees the numbers in the responses to the RFP, it will have to come up with creative ideas to figure out how to make the project work.
“And that could be seeking out additional funds elsewhere through various means,” he said.
Mapes said the $19.2 million figure was placed in the budget at the recommendation of town administration.
“We’ve got to realize that we need the recreation centre to go forward but we’ve got to live within our means,” he said. “We’ve got to realize where we’re at.”