By Lori Larsen
City of Camrose administration reported an update on the Camrose Aquatic Centre renovation and upgrade project and requested council provide direction specific to the timing and funding of this project, during the May 7 committee of whole meeting.
In 2015, with the help of BR2, the design contractors, the City selected to propose the design of a new swimming pool, presented administration with a high-level estimate in the mid $20 million range, resulting in a rethink of the project towards a renovation as opposed to brand new facility.
The initial estimate, by BR2, of a basic renovation project, came in at $12 million, which included a six lane pool, retrofit to the existing swim tank to improve water filtration, the reuse of existing HVAC with some addition to account for the extra building area, some cosmetic upgrades and a splash park relocation.
“As we went along the project grew because we had a lot of community feedback,” said City community services general manager Ryan Poole.
The results of further consultation, in 2017, with residents, Camrose Sea Serpents Swim Club, the Synchro Club, Life Saving Sport group, Triathlon Club and Seniors Aquafit Club on the desires surrounding the Aquatic Centre project indicated a desire for more substantial scope of services including eight lane competition/multi use pool with spectator seating, leisure pool including lazy river, water slide, in ground accessible hot tub, completely updated change rooms and front lobby and expansion of the family change room.
A new design, including the aforementioned desires, was proposed at a cost of $17,022,816. The final tendered cost, as of March 2018, is $17,233,503. This would require an additional $5.2 million in funding that was not budgeted, not including the proposed $2.64 million County contribution subject to the acceptance of the Recreation Agreement.
Councillor Wayne Throndson inquired as to what was eliminated to get from the initial tender of approximately $19 million to $17,2 million, adding that one of the initial plans had cement bleachers in the new pool area which had now been eliminated.
Poole replied, “We went out to tender and came back higher, so we went back to the drawing board and determined things we could eliminate that wouldn’t affect the life and quality of facility, but will bring the cost back to the $17 million mark. One was the cement bleachers which were a fairly pricey item approximately $150,000.” He indicated that less expensive options, such as aluminum bleachers, could be considered.
Throndson said, “The mistakes we have learned in the past, especially with the past pool, is we start to try to cut and before we know it we are two inches short in the depth of the pool, or we don’t have proper diving boards or blocks for the swim club. My concern is if we start cutting are we impacting the functionality.”
Poole explained, “We are not trying to find $2 million by cutting out functionality and most important quality.” He noted that other areas, such as cutting back on high-end, unneeded insulation on indoor piping and not adding new panels to the ceiling of the existing pool which were strictly for esthetics, were scaled back or eliminated.
Throndson, out of concern raised to him from the community, asked if the dressing rooms would be completely revamped or rebuilt entirely.
Poole replied, “They are getting a full esthetics rebuild including new lockers, tile, sinks, vanities toilet partitions and showers. The big change will be the a large family change room.”
Throndson asked “Will you be getting rid of the moisture issues, smell and other gunk. Is that just going to come back?”
Poole said, “The big plan there is to improve the ventilation.”
Councillor David Ofrim inquired as to the possibility of building a brand new Aquatic Centre, rather than renovating the existing facility.
Councillor Throndson agreed with Ofrim. “It raises the possibility of having a new pool attached to the field house. There is lots of space, it could accommodate a true multi-purpose facility that enjoys advantages of different streams of government money and has the added benefit of not having to take the existing pool out of commission. And I worry about the costs and surprises of remodelling.”
Mayor Norm Mayer said that he is in favour of seeing the Aquatic Centre renovation and addition project, at $17.2 million, proceed. “I would like to see council consider moving forward as outlined with the proposed funding and carry forward required debt until we are able to negotiate with the county.”
Councillor Greg Wood stated he preferred the cost of $17 million over the cost of a brand new facility, stating that room needs to be left for vital infrastructures projects.
Based on the option of shutting down the pool from September this year to November 2019, Poole estimated the operational costs, comparing status quo (remaining as is) with renovations.
Revenues based on Status quo 2018 would be $673,400 (with $150,000 County contribution) and based on renovation would be $506,700 (with $150,000 Country contribution). Status quo 2019 would be $673,400 (with $150,000 County contribution) and based on with renovation would be $198,550 (with $150,000 County contribution).
Expenses based on status quo 2018 and 2019 would total $$1,196,065 each year. Expenses during renovations, if the project progressed, in 2018 would be $819,100 and $450,900 in 2019. “We estimated our expense overall impact would be around $560,000. There is actually a savings during that shutdown time.”
Poole also explained the estimate of future operational costs with total revenues for 2018 at $673,400 and post renovation of $776,440 and total expenses for 2018 $1,196,065 and post renovation of $1,552,460. “We are estimating a $253,355 increase in operating the new facility over operating the existing facility.”
Impact on taxpayers
City administration proposed funding the additional $5.2 million with a $4.3 million debt, $200,000 of general capital and $700,000 of MSI grant funding.
According to City of Camrose financial service general manager Travis Bouck, the debt servicing costs on the $4.3 million debenture (over 15 years), increased operating costs and funding alternatives would impact the average household (approximately $300,000) by $55 annually and non-residential properties, for each $100,000 in property value, $32 annually.
Councillor Max Lindstrand asked if the net cost of operation (post renovations) of $776,020, included debt servicing costs.
Bouck replied, “The debt servicing costs are not included in that $776,020, that is just the operating deficit. The debt servicing costs for the Aquatic Centre, assuming the debt is $4.3 million over 15 years, is about $354,000 a year.”
Bouck went on to explain the impact an additional $5.2 million would have on the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) upgrade project and possible resources available for funding, including MSI reserves, capital reserves built up, and some capital from the County.
“If the WWTP project goes from $40 million to at least $60 million, we have $25 million to find. Our levies on the utilities generate $4 million dollar of surplus to build a reserve. That $4 million could cover the costs of the WWTP if we fund it in the manner recommended, however, we might not be putting away enough for the future for other large projects.
“I don’t think we can not raise utility rates given the WWTP effect coming in and still be in a good situation for capital projects.”
Bouck described a summary of the funding model for the City covering the upcoming period through 2020 including a $60 million WWTP, $17 million Aquatic Centre, $8 million public works building, the remaining $4.8 million for the 48 Avenue bridge replacement and $7 million of other capital projects within the City. The funding sources include various capital reserves, user fees, grants and debt. “In general, the City would be able to fund the proposed projects; however the capital reserves decrease from over $27 million to approximately $16 million and debt increases by over $21 million. None of the numbers noted in the summary include any capital contribution from the County for the Aquatic Centre.”
The Aquatic Centre upgrade and addition project matter will come back before council during the regular council meeting on May 22.