Blackfalds still waiting on county cash for $3M rec facility

Blackfalds will have to wait a little longer to find out if Lacombe County will hand over up to $3 million for a new fieldhouse and outdoor pool in the town.

Blackfalds will have to wait a little longer to find out if Lacombe County will hand over up to $3 million for a new fieldhouse and outdoor pool in the town.

Mayor Melodie Stol came before council last month with the multimillion-dollar request to help pay for the $15-million facility on which construction is expected to start this summer.

Councillors decided they needed more time to review the financial implications given the size of the request, which also included a proposed $45,000 annual contribution towards operating costs. They deferred the issue until Thursday’s meeting.

However, councillors continue to express reservations about making such a sizable contribution without taking a look at the bigger picture of recreation and how it should be supported.

Coun. Dana Kreil suggested on Thursday that council defer a decision at least until an already-arranged April 3 council workshop to discuss how to proceed on an upcoming recreation plan for the entire county, which will include a needs review.

“It seems to me we need to get together and think about recreation first before handing out too much,” said Kreil.

Making such a large contribution of tax dollars without an overall recreation strategy was a concern of Coun. Rod McDermand. “I think these are piecemeal,” he said of recreation funding requests the county receives “and we need our game in place.”

County commissioner Terry Hager warned the upcoming meeting is only to start the process to develop a recreation plan. A finished plan will not likely be ready for at least six months.

Council voted unanimously to defer discussion of Blackfalds’ request until April 3. It will then be brought back to a council meeting for decision.

Meanwhile, the project is gathering steam. Blackfalds’ council passed a borrowing bylaw earlier this month that will allow them to borrow $10 million of the $15 million projected for the facility. The fieldhouse 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.

It is hoped it will be finished in 2014.

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