Clearwater County delays contentious administration building

A contentious $25-million administration building won’t be up for discussion until 2018.

Clearwater County has pushed back a contentious municipal complex by at least a year.

The county was considering a two-phase $25 million project to build a new administration building, bringing all of the departments under one roof and connected with a service shop.

A 21,500-square-foot first phase would be followed by a 22,200-square-foot second phase that would become home to planning and development, corporate services, community and protective services offices, along with a new council chambers and other meeting rooms.

However, the scale and timing of the project was criticized by some in the community, who called on council to drop or delay the project until better economic times.

A public meeting on the project drew more than 300 people to a packed community hall.

Reeve Pat Alexander said council decided to move the project back a year to the 2018 budget deliberations.

Public reaction to the project was part of the reason. Council wants to do more consultation with the community before going ahead.

But holding off for now also gives the county and Town of Rocky Mountain House more time to complete complicated agreements ahead of any new development.

Town and county are in the midst of updating an intermunicipal development agreement and creating an area structure plan for the area where the new administration would be located.

The two municipalities are also negotiating a joint economic development agreement to share tax revenues and a servicing agreement to serve the county lands to the north.

“There’s quite a bit of planning stuff to do on it,” Alexander said on Thursday.

“We also need to go back to the public for more consultation.”

Delaying the project carries some financial risk. The county might have reduced costs by tendering now, when companies are looking for construction work.

That the delay will mean the project won’t go ahead before the October municipal elections likely crossed some councillors’ minds, he acknowledged.

He believes it will be an issue regardless, whether in the election or two to three years from now.

“At some point, we need a new building. We’re just out of room,” he said.

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