Option A (above) was the preferred design for a new multi-purpose community centre in Fernie. Design by Carscadden Stokes McDonald Architects Inc/City of Fernie documents

City of Fernie pitches $80m multi-purpose community centre

Council opts for bigger design and two grant funding streams after hour-long debate

The City of Fernie will apply for grant funding to build a new multi-purpose community centre estimated at nearly $80 million.

The City can only receive one of the two cost-sharing grants available and if successful, would pay for at least 10 to 26.67 per cent of the project.

Under current costings, this would equate to $7.99 million or $21.3 million, excluding taxes, demolition, project manager costs and furniture fittings, and equipment.

LOOK BACK: City of Fernie to investigate new multi-purpose community centre

If wholly funded by taxpayers, the new centre would cost the average household an extra $110.15 to $293.20 a year as taxes are raised by 6.8 or 18.1 per cent.

City staff based their tax estimates on 2018 data and a $75 million project, slightly less than the one proposed in the feasibility study.

However, these projected increases do not take into account potential partnerships with other agencies, such as the Regional District of East Kootenay, the sale of old facilities or other fundraising opportunities.

The feasibility study also did not consider equipment that could be relocated and reused at the new centre.

At the first regular meeting of 2019 on Monday, council was asked to choose between two design options and decide which funding stream to apply for.

The Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure (CCRI) program provides funding for new or renewed infrastructure projects, offering a total senior government contribution of up to 73.33 per cent.

The Rural and Northern Communities (RNC) program provides additional eligibility for the CCRI grant and is specific for communities with smaller populations. It offers a total senior government contribution of up to 90 per cent of eligible costs.

Carscadden Stokes McDonald Architects spokesman Glen Stokes presented the two options to council Monday. These were based on the multi-purpose centre first proposed in the 2013 Leisure Service Master Plan and feedback from user groups, and other stakeholders during community consultation in December.

The firm’s preferred design, Option A, features a 1200-seat arena with six change rooms, a walking track, a curling rink with four sheets and an 11,200 square foot gym, among other facilities.

Option B is smaller with a 600-seat arena, four change rooms and an 8400 square foot gym, with an estimated construction cost of $69.6 million.

The feasibility study shows Option A attaching to the Fernie Aquatic Centre and spread over two levels, with the latest accessibility features, including an elevator.

Stokes said the design gives the City flexibility and is the culmination of everything his firm has heard from both staff and the community.

Mayor Ange Qualizza was in favour of Option A after her recent visit to Canmore, Alta., where the local council is struggling with storage space at its multi-purpose centre.

There was concern among councillors that by applying for both streams, Fernie would default to CCRI, which offers a lower senior government contribution and would leave the City with a $21.3 million debt.

In response to their concerns, Director of Community Services Marta Proctor said she believes few communities will be able to mobilize a project of this size. She explained that City staff have been working overtime to complete the grant application by the January 23 deadline.

Another concern was the cost of the project. However, the City is under pressure to replace aging facilities and staff previously identified that building a new centre would have a positive impact on both the capital and operating budgets.

Stokes confirmed operating costs would be lower as the new centre would be newer and more efficient, and allow staffing to be consolidated.

Councillors debated the project and their funding options for more than an hour before reaching a decision.

The motion to apply for both funding streams with Option A was moved by Councillor Morgan Pulsifer and seconded by Councillor Kyle Hamilton.

Council then moved to direct staff to initiate the next steps for the grant application, which include adjusting the financial plan and a loan authorization bylaw.

Click here to view the feasibility study in full.

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