If Maple Ridge wants federal grant funding for the new civic and cultural centre, the city should put money up front, about $2.2 million.
The amount is what it would cost for architectural design drawings for the centre, so it has the best chance to qualify for federal money, council’s committee meeting heard Monday.
“It’s a large number, based on the fact this is a $40-million build. So the design costs are quite large,” said chief administrator Ted Swabey.
“You have to spend the $2.2 million to actually have the detailed design done.”
Doing so shows senior governments that the project is actually happening and “shovel ready,” thus deserving of grants.
In particular, having a specific project in mind can show clearly how it qualifies for various grant programs as the federal government prepares to release stimulus spending.
Swabey and Mayor Nicole Read recently went to Ottawa and met with three ministers and other staff. They pitched Maple Ridge’s proposal for the centre after council earlier agreed to focus on that project when seeking federal money.
The centre is only one of a half-dozen recreation projects, such as a new aquatic centre, or ice rinks, that council is seeking public comment on over the next six months.
The civic and cultural centre, planned to go next to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, would have space for post-secondary classrooms, the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives, meeting space and a youth wellness centre.
“What emerged as a clear consensus from these meetings was that the design development of the civic centre project requires further clarity to both ensure it is shovel ready for the next round of grant funding … “ said a staff report.
Coun. Bob Masse had his doubts.
“I don’t want to approve $2.2 million for doing the design work without some kind of certainty of what exactly the funding source is.”
And is this what the federal government is asking of cities, Masse asked.
“If you want to capture the best opportunities to get funding from other levels of government, you have to be ready to build,” Swabey replied.
If new grants are announced, and Maple Ridge doesn’t have specific designs ready and can show that its project is ready, it could miss out.
Still, there are no guarantees the city will get any grants.
And just like road projects, the city does the designs, then seeks funding, Swabey said.
“They’re going to want to know that we’re ready to go. They don’t want to be dealing with a community that they’re going to make a funding commitment to … and that community isn’t able or ready with their own funding to go,” said Read.
Coun. Craig Speirs said Maple Ridge doesn’t have a museum or post-secondary education space, so spending money on plans, “I think that would show a lot of leadership. I think it’s a great project. But, we need to get these things in place.”
Coun. Kiersten Duncan said Maple Ridge has a good chance of getting federal money.
“Our mayor has spoken to the prime minister. That’s huge. How many communities can say their mayor has spoken to the prime minister about the project.”
Building the civic and cultural centre also includes major renovations to the Leisure Centre pool, but it’s not certain yet if they would require complete or just partial closure of the facility.
“We are working very hard to make sure our residents are not impacted,” Duncan said.
In 2014, staff reported that repairs to the Leisure Centre pool – to fix leaking pipes and upgrade filtration and mechanical systems – could cost $5,5 million.
According to a consultant’s report from fall of that year, the leisure pool is losing 6,800 litres of water a day, while the level in the swirl pool is dropping by more than 7.5 centimetres each day. The surge tank wall that serves both pools is deteriorating and concrete and corroded re-bar are visible.
In Dec. 2015, council heard that the repairs would require closing at least the pool portion of the pool for a year.
Council then heard from the contractor bidding on the renovations came up with a plan to keep part of the pool open for the duration of repairs.
But Maple Ridge council decided to scrap those plans and considered patching up the leaking pool.
Nothing has been decided yet.
“We’re absolutely looking to minimize the time the community would be without access to a pool,” said recreation general manager Kelly Swift. “So we may come at it a little differently than we did in the past, if we can find a way to minimize that impact.”
When the Leisure Centre repairs were discussed, council was also looking at building a new aquatic centre, which could have opened before repairs began.
“Whether we could still do that is something we would have to re-assess.”
A new aquatic centre, location yet unknown and costing about $70 million, is among the recreation projects that needs the public’s OK through the alternative approval process.
“There are lots of possibilities right now,” said Swift. “We really need to hear back from the community. That’s going to inform everything that happens now.”
Funding opportunities, and public input could all help determine the final plan and schedule for the recreation infrastructure upgrades.
“We’re going to try to plan it in a way that really does minimize any closures. That’s always our last resort.”
Once the current six-month public consultation concludes, there will be a clear idea of the recreation infrastructure upgrade plan and its impacts, Swift explained.
Council will vote on paying for the cultural centre designs at a later regular meeting.