Fieldhouse costs face scrutiny

A cost-sharing agreement that would see Lacombe County pick up a share of the operating costs for Blackfald’s yet-unfinished fieldhouse ran into a snag on Thursday.

A cost-sharing agreement that would see Lacombe County pick up a share of the operating costs for Blackfald’s yet-unfinished fieldhouse ran into a snag on Thursday.

County councillors were concerned that the deal, which commits the county to covering 15 per cent of operating costs, was too open-ended.

Projected annual operating costs are $300,000 for the $15-million fieldhouse that is expected to be open late this year or early next year. Lacombe County’s share would be $45,000.

However, several councillors wondered if the county’s 15-per-cent commitment exposed it to too much financial risk if operating costs were much higher than expected.

Council voted unanimously to table the issue to await more information.

Tim Timmons, county manager of corporate services, said administrators from the two municipalities will meet to raise the county’s concerns and review operating cost estimates.

Coun. Cliff Soper, who is the county’s representative on Blackfalds recreation board, was wary of delaying too much.

“We can’t continue to keep postponing and postponing because I think we’re sending the wrong message. We’re sending the message that communication isn’t very good.”

Coun. Paula Law said council’s questions shouldn’t be seen as a negative development.

“I’m all for paying a fair share of it.”

Last June, the county approved a $750,000 donation towards construction costs of the fieldhouse. At the time, council debated whether to approve $2.25 million, based on 15 per cent of the total cost and as a reflection of the percentage of county users.

However, after some discussion council opted to provide one-third of that and defer a decision on further funding until the recreation master plan is completed this year.

Blackfalds had asked for $3 million.

Construction began on the fieldhouse last summer. It will be home to various recreational activities such as indoor play spaces for a variety of sports, walking and running tracks, pools, fitness equipment and lease spaces for local businesses.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com