Cost of de­signs reignites de­bate over new aquatic cen­tre

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - LEN GILLIS

As Tim­mins city coun­cil was pre­sented with a re­port this week on the RFP cost es­ti­mates for ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign ser­vices for a new aquatic cen­tre, Coun. Joe Camp­bell tried his best to drown the project with dire warn­ings of the city’s eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

He said it would be ir­re­spon­si­ble for coun­cil to con­tinue mov­ing for­ward.

The rec­om­men­da­tion in the re­port, from com­mu­nity and de­vel­op­ment ser­vices di­rec­tor Mark Jensen, was that coun­cil move ahead to spend $1,260,327 for phases 1 and 2 of de­sign and ten­der prepa­ra­tion work, and to have the project of­fi­cially deemed as con­struc­tion ready.

Coun­cil did not take a vote on the spend­ing. The re­port will be pre­sented at a fu­ture meet­ing so that coun­cil can de­cide on whether to pro­ceed.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions from Coun. Camp­bell, Jensen re­minded the mem­bers that coun­cil ap­proved a con­cep­tual plan back in March for a $48.4-mil­lion aquatic cen­tre that in­cludes an eight-lane swim­ming pool, a leisure pool, a lazy river and an in­door field house with multi-use courts for things such as squash and rac­quet­ball.

Camp­bell ques­tioned if there was ever a needs study done for the field house con­cept or what the op­er­at­ing cost would be and why the city is mov­ing ahead with the project.

Camp­bell also said the pop­u­la­tion of the city is in de­cline and yet the city’s debt load is in­creas­ing.

“Our long-term debt right now for this city is $55 mil­lion,” said Camp­bell, although he ad­mit­ted part of that was from the city’s wa­ter/sewer ac­count and part of it was from the city’s share of the Cochrane District So­cial Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion Board. Camp­bell said it didn’t mat­ter where the debt is from. “Debt is debt,” he said. He re­stated his long-stand­ing ar­gu­ment that Kidd Mine is clos­ing in 2021 and that the fu­ture is not en­tirely cer­tain for other min­ing op­er­a­tions. He added that the city has lost mil­lions from the min­ing com­pany re-as­sess­ments.

“These are eco­nomic chal­lenges we are fac­ing as a city and a coun­cil right now,” he said.

He men­tioned it is pos­si­ble some of the city’s newer min­ing projects could de­velop into largescale en­ter­prises, but said noth­ing is for cer­tain.

“I think it would be ir­re­spon­si­ble for this coun­cil to go any fur­ther with this thing un­til we get our house in or­der fi­nan­cially,” said Camp­bell.

Also speak­ing against the project was Coun. Rick Dubeau who said there is no need to pro­ceed any fur­ther, since the project has al­ready been de­fined as “shovel ready”. He said there is no need to spend any ad­di­tional money on de­sign work.

Dubeau urged coun­cil to “put the brakes on and slow it down a bit” un­til coun­cil is cer­tain there is enough fi­nan­cial sup­port in the com­mu­nity to jus­tify mov­ing ahead. Af­ter those com­ments, de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Jensen re­marked that the need for the project had been out­lined in pre­vi­ous years in the city’s strate­gic plan (2012) and the cul­ture, tourism and recre­ation master plan (2014).

“As coun­cil is aware this par­tic­u­lar project is coun­cil-driven. The com­po­nents out­lined within the con­cep­tual plan were iden­ti­fied by coun­cil and sup­ported by the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil,” said Jensen. Jensen also re­minded coun­cil

Jensen also re­minded coun­cil the plan gives coun­cil the op­tion to back away from some of the com­po­nent costs if those are re­garded as too ex­pen­sive.

“if the project costs be­come too high, there are op­tions to re­move com­po­nents as re­quired to meet the bud­getary re­quire­ments of coun­cil, what­ever that num­ber is,” said Jensen.

as for the field house idea, Jensen con­ceded there was no study done to jus­tify it but it was some­thing pro­posed and ac­cepted by the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil.

“but a com­po­nent like that could be re­moved if there was in­suf­fi­cient fund­ing,” said Jensen.

Coun. pat bam­ford said while there was not a house­hold sur­vey done over the aquatic cen­tre, there were pub­lic meet­ings held where cit­i­zens were in­vited to speak up.

“there were op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to say yes or no,” said bam­ford.

he said he is a sup­porter of the project, but bam­ford re­minded coun­cil that as far as he is aware, coun­cil has al­ready agreed “we would not go ahead with this ma­jor project un­less rea­son­able as­sur­ance of fund­ing.”

he added that from what he has heard, se­nior lev­els of gov­ern­ment are look­ing at be­ing more gen­er­ous with fund­ing recre­ational projects.

“and i think it is ap­pro­pri­ate that we show our in­ter­est in go­ing ahead with this,” said bam­ford.

he added if the project is not fea­si­ble, coun­cil could walk away.

“Un­for­tu­nately we have to in­vest some money to move ahead to show our in­ter­est,” he said.

he said or­ga­ni­za­tions would not step for­ward with se­ri­ous con­tri­bu­tions un­less they see the city is se­ri­ous about mov­ing for­ward.

Coun. noella ri­naldo also spoke in sup­port of the project. she said she ap­pre­ci­ated Camp­bell’s con­cerns for the econ­omy but added that a new aquatic cen­tre is a qual­ity-of-life is­sue.

“so i think this is a re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ment in the city,” she said.

ri­naldo added that if there is no fund­ing com­mit­ment from the higher lev­els of gov­ern­ment, the city could al­ways turn away from the project.

“but we have to move for­ward. We have to con­tinue to be­lieve in our­selves and be­lieve in the city and be­lieve in in­vest­ing in it,” she said.

mayor steve black also spoke on the eco­nomic con­cerns but said he be­lieves the city is not in any dire straits. by ex­am­ple, he men­tioned there are sev­eral new min­ing de­vel­op­ments in the works and that three ma­jor new ho­tels have opened up in the city in the past few years.

“these peo­ple don’t make that type of in­vest­ment if they think the City of tim­mins is go­ing to fold up shop and not be around,” said black.

he said hav­ing a new pool is an as­set that ap­peals to all ages of res­i­dents.

“this to me is a qual­ity-of-life recre­ation as­set for our res­i­dents,” said black.

he also ad­dressed the is­sue of whether the project is shovel ready, mean­ing that prepa­ra­tion work has pro­gressed to the point where se­nior gov­ern­ments can pro­vide fund­ing with the as­sur­ance the project will pro­ceed.

black said he has been ad­vised the tim­mins aquatic cen­tre project is not yet shovel ready, and un­til it is, no fund­ing com­mit­ment will be made.

at some point in the near fu­ture, coun­cil will be asked to vote on the bid by perkins+will, an in­ter­na­tional ar­chi­tec­tural firm. the bid in­cludes $1.2 mil­lion for the de­sign and ten­der work and $420,109 for con­struc­tion man­age­ment, for a to­tal bid of $1,680,436.

perkins+will was the low­est of seven bids, rang­ing from $1.6 mil­lion to a high of $2.7 mil­lion.


Coun. Joe Camp­bell has asked coun­cil to hold off any fu­ture prepa­ra­tion work for the city’s pro­posed $48-mil­lion aquatic cen­tre project un­til the lo­cal econ­omy is in bet­ter shape. His com­ments came Mon­day when coun­cil was pre­sented with a cost­ing re­port for the ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign and ten­der ser­vices which is ask­ing city hall to in­vest an ad­di­tional $1.6 mil­lion.

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