The Town of Innisfail is spending $600,000 to lay the groundwork for a potential $20-million aquatic and recreation centre.
Council recently approved spending the money to get detailed cost estimates and for town staff to work with architects and contractors to complete design work, a process expected to take until spring 2023. Early work will also identify a site and review energy efficiency, wellness and accessibility options.
A replacement is needed for the town’s aging pool facility. After examining a number of options, including renovating the existing facility, or new facilities, including one that would include a fieldhouse, it was recommended the town pursue a new facility that would cost in the range of $20-$25 million.
Town staff are recommending that preliminary work be done and before putting the project on hold until the cost has been established and enough funding, through government grants, fundraising and sponsorships, is in place to cover half the cost of the facility.
Council was shown a variety of financing options for a new facility. Assuming the town had to finance $10 million over 20 years, the annual payment would be $720,000.
Part of that could be covered by using $451,000 put aside annually in a reserve fund. The remaining $270,000 could be raised by increasing property taxes by 3.58 per cent.
If the town had to bankroll $20 million, annual payments would top $1.4 million, which would require about a 13 per cent municipal tax rate increase on top of the annual reserve amount.
The town has also looked at the viability of building a multiplex, including a fieldhouse which could cost $47 million. That was seen as out of reach at this time.
Mayor Jean Barclay suggested, and council agreed at its last meeting, to refer to the project as a recreation centre while recognizing that an aquatic centre is the focus.
Barclay asked if the design process might suggest a facility that costs less than the $20 million that is being used as a rough estimate.
Chief administrative officer Todd Becker said that was entirely possible.
Coun. Jason Heistad said the new pool needs replacing and it is important to take steps to get the project going. Once an estimated price is known council will review that and how it will be paid for.
Coun. Gavin Bates, who was the sole vote against the decision to spend $600,000, saying council should nail down the budget it is working towards. He was also reluctant to commit the entire facility reserve allocation each year to one project.