A proposed $90 million aquatics centre will not be moved into 10-year capital plan for now despite the efforts of two Red Deer city councillors.
Instead an ad hoc committee will be formed to further develop the centre with the Central Alberta Aquatic Centre group in early 2014.
In October 2014, a report will come to council in order to help them make a decision on the phased construction of the centre and its placement in the capital plan.
The matter was put to rest for the immediate future on Tuesday after a lengthy debate over moving the centre into the plan.
Councillors Paul Harris and Lynne Mulder spoke passionately about the need to move away from supporting it “in principle” to demonstrating concrete support.
Mulder said she was encouraged that the centre is moving forward slightly and there is a commitment for council to make a decision next year.
However Mulder said she feels like it has been in the works for six years and keeps getting edged out of the plan.
“It was disappointing,” said Mulder. “Everybody says they want that pool but nobody is there when push comes to shove. I think it’s the very best that we do. I am pleased that we are moving forward with it. I hope the aquatics centre folks see this as a win-win.”
Most councillors supported the centre in principle but were hesitant to support a project that left unanswered questions about funding, community support and the project’s scope.
Coun. Ken Johnston said council does have a heart for the project. Like many councillors he brought up the concern of projects competing for support in the community. Council turned down to requests from the Red Deer Soccer Association and the Central Alberta Slo-Pitch Association in this budget. Council reasoned there needs to be further discussion on the future of these sites in Edgar Industrial Park before allocating funds.
“We have an actual opportunity here to collaborate not compete,” said Johnston. “That’s critical here. I look at opportunities here to include all sports groups .. I think we can win if we can insure and establish that trust that we do take this extremely seriously. With public consultation and good work by the committee we can get something done here.”
Council heard that for every $20 million added to the capital plan the debt limit would increase by five per cent which translates to a 1.3 per cent tax increase. A $100 million addition would equal a 6.6 per cent tax increase. A new capital facility would also increase the operating budget between 1.5 per cent and two percent.
As heard throughout the debate, Mayor Tara Veer said there needs to be a mechanism in place to determine recreation priorities in the community.
“It seems imperative to engage in that work with our community because this is such a substantial financial investment,” said Veer. “Saying yes to the $90 million project now automatically presumes a no to something else in the future. That’s where my discomfort resides.”
Veer said everyone on council was on the campaign trail and they heard that everyone loves the pool until you tell them the impact.
“Everyone loves the idea until you tell them 6.6 per cent capital surcharge and then a two per cent operating surcharge in absent of adjusting any other service levels throughout the operations in the community,” said Veer. We have to be fair to our public that there is real and direct financial impact with the project as it stands.”