The cost to Princeton of building the proposed wellness and aquatic centre has increased by 44 per cent.
While the price tag attached to the facility is still $27 million, the municipality’s share is now projected at $7.22 million, instead of the $5 million originally projected.
Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve the application for a $19.77 million grant, under the recently announced Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
Previously the town had hoped to secure $22 million in grants, however the joint federal and provincial program will only fund 73.3 per cent of eligible projects.
A report submitted to council by recreation director Lyle Thomas stated: “Staff is confident that we will have these funds in place without borrowing, through reserves, partnerships, fundraisers and pledges.”
Mayor Frank Armitage said when the application is completed “we also have to be realistic and look at our share and make sure it is covered. I am not going to be part of any group that is going to put a burden on the taxpayer.”
At the end of last year the municipality had $2 million in an open-ended reserve earmarked for pool construction. A resolution was passed in December 2017 directing all future monies from Vermilion Forks Community Forest Corporation and Copper Mountain Mine property taxes to the same account. That combined contribution was estimated at $600,000 annually.
While the deadline for submitting a grant application under the infrastructure program is January 23, 2019, Thomas said it is important to get the request in as soon as possible.
“We understand that this is going to be oversubscribed very quickly, and we’ve been instructed to get our application in very quickly if we want to be involved in this.”
Thomas said that while the town has laid considerable groundwork for making the request – including $110,000 in feasibility studies paid for by government grants – more information needs to be compiled.
Particularly, the federal government is requiring details on greenhouse gas emissions associated with the facility. The proposal will also be reviewed for potential costs savings, for example around parking, according to the report.
“We are going to be flat out on this for probably a good month and a half, I think,” said Thomas. “I would hope that we should be able to get this in by the end of the year.”
Last November the municipality revealed details of its feasibility study, proposing a multi-purpose facility to be built on Bridge Street on the former Overwaitea property, which was gifted to the town in 2015.
The Princeton Health, Wellness and Aquatic Centre is proposed to include:
• five lane lap pool up to 6.8 feet deep, suitable for competitive swimming and meets
• leisure pool with tots area, overheads sprays and rehabilitation features
• lazy river
• hot pool
• upper level walking track, pickleball courts and exercise area
• coffee bar
• party and meeting rooms
• 46 surface parking stalls and 43 underground parking stalls
In a written presentation it was stated there would be no cost to the taxpayer for construction and between a $50 and $100 tax increase per household for operations.
The operational costs of the project have been identified as an issue in the upcoming municipal election – with many candidates stating while they don’t oppose an indoor pool, they do not agree with the scope or particulars of the current proposal.
That fact was acknowledged as councillors discussed the staff report.
“There seems to once again be confusion in our community. If we don’t follow through at this point we will probably be looking at starting over…So if we miss it we probably are going to be out in the cold.”
Thomas responded that this is the first such grant opportunity in more than seven years “and that is my opinion, yes.”
Jerome Tjerkstra said: “I’m to understand then that should we approve this application, and that we make this application and they say ‘yes’, and after the next election there are new people on board, the only way it can be stopped is if we don’t accept the cheque.”
A referendum held in 2011, on an indoor pool plan that did not factor grants from higher levels of government and included a $380 annual residential tax hike, was voted down with a 51 to 49 per cent split.
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