Princeton’s new mayor and council are taking the plunge on the $27 million proposed aquatic centre.
At its first official meeting Monday night, council unanimously passed a resolution to spend $35,000 to enhance its application for provincial and federal funds.
There was a smattering of applause from about a dozen spectators following the vote.
In an interview Mayor Spencer Coyne said it’s a clear indication council supports moving forward with the project, and he expects community response to the decision will be mixed.
“What else can I say? There are people who are for it and people who are against it,” he said. “We have to do our due diligence and if the application is going to go forward it has to be the best application it can be.”
The municipality will engage VDA Architects to provide a detailed energy model of low carbon and green economy aspects of the proposal, in order to meet some of the criteria of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
The application for approximately $20 million is due January 23.
Councillor Randy McLean moved to approve the consultant’s project. He was seconded by George Elliott.
“I guess from my perspective…we have been trying forever to be able to bring an indoor pool to the Town of Princeton. It just seems like this grant application is an opportunity to get substantial funding to make that possible,” said McLean.
“According to my information the last substantial grant offering was in 2005. In conversations with the swim club this design meets all their expectations in what they are hoping for in terms of a pool. We have spent over $100,000 so far on the architect’s design and that sort of the thing and this $35,000 would complete that.”
The pool is proposed to be built on Bridge Street, on the former Overwaitea property that was gifted to the town for a community amenity.
It is to include a five-lane lap pool up to 6.8 feet deep, a leisure pool with tots area, overhead sprays and rehabilitation features, a lazy river, hot pool, upper level walking track, pickleball courts and exercise area, coffee bar, party and meeting rooms.
The original plan, unveiled at a public meeting in November 2017, also called for 46 surface parking stalls and 43 underground parking stalls.
However a report received by council Monday night stated VDA will also be asked to review the cost of underground parking, with the possibility of instead utilizing the nearby former Burr Motors lot as public parking.
That property – acquired last year by the town through tax sale – was earmarked by the previous council as a possible location for affordable seniors housing.
“Geotechnical testing at this site has provided information that confirms subsurface contaminants. If we desire to have the site sold and developed, more testing is required to determine how extensive the contamination is. This level of testing is expensive and would ultimately result in a reclamation strategy in order to allow construction. As an alternative, using it for public parking would be more economical and is seen as a benefit to the town tourism and retail activities.”
The initial proposal also assumed that the provincial and federal governments would provide $22 million of the total cost of the pool, leaving the municipality to raise $5 million.
However, in October after the funding program was announced, it was realized the town would need to provide $7 million.
There is currently more than $2 million in reserve funds earmarked for pool construction.
The deputy CAO’s report states that “Town reserves: By the time we need the funds (est. 2022) there will be $4 million in reserves if we continue with existing reserve planning.”
Corporate donations, fundraising, further grants, donations in kind and sponsorships were cited as other funding options that would preclude the need to borrow or increase taxes to build the facility.
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