Referendum coming for $5.6 million community hall
During what was perhaps the least attended council meeting in District of Invermere (DOI) history August 13, council unanimously launched a process to build a new community centre.
With only Mayor Gerry Taft and Coun. Greg Anderson in council chambers, and Coun. Justin Atterbury patched in by phone, council approved the first three readings of Borrowing Bylaw No. 1474, allowing for the borrowing of $5.6 million, financed over 30 years, and launching a referendum to get approval from residents for the borrowing.
Chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said the date for the referendum has not been selected but it will either be Oct. 26 or Nov. 2. If it is Oct. 26, voters will have to attend the DOI offices and if Nov. 2, voting will take place at the Lake Windermere Memorial Community Hall.
“If the proposed recommendation is supported, the intent is to borrow up to $5.6 million over a 30 year term. This translates into approximately a $111 parcel tax if the full amount is borrowed,” Prosser explained.
Council had initially set a target of $100 per parcel but that would have left the district $800,000 shy of the funds it will need to replace the 65-year-old community hall at the old David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) site.
Prosser also instructed council prior to the vote that the proposed borrowing “will commit 20% of our liability servicing ability to one project. This may limit our future ability to borrow funds for infrastructure replacement/renewal and require us to rely on granting programs and saving our own funds to complete infrastructure renewal.”
The three council members stated full support for the borrowing and creation of a new community centre.
“I hope it goes through,” Atterbury said, noting the large cost the district would face just to upgrade the current hall.
“I think it’s time. We might as well go to the public and see how they feel,” Anderson added.
“The existing hall has served the community very well. There has been pretty much every activity you can mention in there,” Taft said, questioning the wisdom of spending more money “on a failing facility.”
The community hall was constructed in 1948 as a “Valley Project” to commemorate local residents who lost their lives fighting in in the Second World War, Prosser stated in a report to council.
Taft, reflecting Prosser’s report, noted the district has been mulling over the creation of a new community centre for 14 years.
“In 1999, a public process was undertaken to review the existing community hall site in conjunction with the recently acquired Former DTSS site. At that time, council adopted the bylaw amendments to guide the community to re-establishing the community hall in an expanded form at the former DTSS site,” Prosser outlined, adding there is greater need today for a replacement project to get underway as the old hall is in trouble.
“Since then two structural assessments were completed: one in 2000 by Krahn and Associates and one in 2012 by Nelson Engineering. Both reports identified structural deficiencies compared to today’s building codes. However, since 2000, the major structural components of the community hall are showing signs of fatigue and action is needed in the near future.
“The particular components that the 2012 analysis was able to review included the floor and roof systems. The floor is undersized when compared to the capacity of the building. Based upon that analysis, the Building Inspector was required to re-assess the capacity and set the new capacity at 229 persons; a decrease from a previous capacity of 275.
“The second component that is of significant concern is the roof structure over the entire building. There are two different roof structures in place: a truss type system over the community hall and a form of laminated beams over the Judo Hall,” Prosser reported.
While awaiting direction post referendum, the district will continue to monitor the condition of the old community hall, he said.
Prosser said six concepts for a new community centre, varying in configuration and scope, have been put forward by the district’s architect.
“The concepts include the community hall, multi-purpose meeting rooms, library and municipal offices. Some of the concepts include the idea of a small swimming pool and aquatic centre. However, the concepts that include the swimming pool increase the capital cost of the overall project (includes all phases) from an estimated construction cost of $9.9-million (includes hall, library and offices) to $19.4 million with the aquatic centre,” he explained.
“Nailing down a final concept option is still too early today. If the referendum is successful, then staff will begin looking at design and construction options to continue moving the project to reality. The potential exists that a significant cost savings can be achieved through a design building style contract. However, until the funding is secured it is difficult to provide this information to council,” Prosser said.
And if the referendum fails – the CAO said, “Then council is going to have to make some hard decisions.”
Taft said district staff will do everything possible to reduce costs to taxpayers by seeking senior government grants.
“We will leverage as much grant money as possible,” he said.
Taft also noted the proposed new community centre won’t just benefit Invermere, but the entire Columbia Valley community.
Four open houses will be held, two on Wednesdays, and two on Saturdays, to inform residents about the proposal.