Bonnyville will not pursue the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Project (ICIP) grant after news the provincial government will force communities to use funding from a grant they already receive.
It was originally believed that the province’s share would be new money. However, on Tuesday, town council was told that the provincial share on project costs would have to come from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative – money the town has already put towards infrastructure.
This news had council quite surprised.
“In other words, we would have to foot the bill of 80 per cent of the rec facility. That was starting to put it out of reach,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski.
The town had two expressions of interest they will no longer pursue because of this news: a new fine arts theatre in the first intake, and a new aquatic centre in the second.
That does not mean these projects are dead, but it just became more difficult and more costly for the town.
“The new thing we have to throw into that mix is we likely no longer have the ability to build a grand centre, or build new. Now, we’re really gonna have to stick to our means, given that the provincial government has said you need to use your MSI.”
“This is flying in the face of the federal government because they’re looking to build Canada – build infrastructure. And as a result of this MSI thing, you’re probably going to see a dramatic reduction in a lot of these applications. Municipalities just can’t afford it.”
Sobolewski said the town is already expecting MSI funding to drop next year to under a million dollars.
The MSI grant is a yearly fixture from the province, but it might not be for long. There is nothing slated past 2019. To begin construction on the grant with money that may never come, is a situation Sobolewski said the town will avoid.
“If you have to pay MSI funds to advance these projects and commit that MSI, and they cancel that MSI, you’re in a real pickle, particularly if you’re midway through construction or you commence a construction project. It would be an almost unmanageable risk to a municipality,” said Sobolewski.
“They’re killing arts and culture in the future as a result of that.”
The projects council has committed with MSI funding is 47th avenue and 48-50 street rehab of sewers, and roads.
Town council did launch a pool committee to both assist with the current facility, and develop plans of what a new pool could look like.
This pool committee made up of four town councillors, town administration, pool users from the town and M.D. and pool employees, will then make a recommendation to council in November on what the town should do.
“We need that committee to basically resolve a lot of the controversy that’s out there right now. We’re gonna need to stay within our means.”
Town administration did research on what different aquatic centres could look like.
A 22,000 square foot splash park facility could cost $9-16 Million, depending on features.
A 28,000 square foot aquatics centre could cost between $11-25 Million and upward, depending again on features.
The town has already budgeted millions of dollars over the last few years to upgrade the existing pool.
“We may not have a perfect solution, but at least we can meet the majority of the needs.”
Administration also recommended that all sources of potential funding partners and capital funding should be considered.