Concern about the prospects for raising $2 million from the community to build a new multiplex to replace the aging arena, prompted Sylvan Lake councillors to delay passing the terms of reference for a task force to oversee the project.
They suggested several changes which will be incorporated when the document is brought back to the Jan. 28 council meeting for approval.
Terms of reference for a fundraising committee were also deferred to the next meeting.
Councillor Laverne Asselstine first raised his concern that a task force was being created before fundraising had taken place and yet the terms of reference contained no statement that the project could be delayed if community support wasn’t forthcoming from user groups, sponsorships and fundraising.
Councillors, at their Dec. 10 meeting directed administration to proceed to a request for proposals for architectural services based on the functional design which includes the arena replacement, four lane running track, expanded front entry with concession, meeting room space, community organizations’ administration space, child activity area, leasehold space, seniors centre and civic event centre at a total cost of $16.5 million.
At that time they talked about the fact the building might be delayed if the $2 million wasn’t raised. The balance of the cost is planned to come from town funds and grants, intermunicipal funding and a $9 million debenture.
Ron Lebsack, director of leisure and protective services, said the task force should be set up and a request for proposals for architectural services advertised so an architect can be selected prior to summer. Then they’d have the rest of the year to create the plans.
Asselstine said the fundraising committee should be started first and “when things are moving then start engaging an architect firm”.
“This is an election year too. I don’t think we should be moving ahead with the terms of reference before the next council (is elected).”
Lebsack replied that in order to get the fundraising going they’re looking for a concept design and rendering which will be created by an architectural firm.
Councillor Sean McIntyre agreed. “It’s really difficult to engage stakeholders in a concept without looking at something tangible. They need to know the project is going ahead. I think it makes sense to have something people can see, a concept to believe in before they invest.”
“If it’s something vague it’s hard to commit,” added Councillor Dale Plante. “I think we already came to agreement we’re moving forward with the development with the caveat that if fundraising is delayed the project could be delayed. I’m very much in favour of getting this going.”
Councillor Rick Grimson agreed with Asselstine and noted there was another item on the agenda which might mean two projects competing for the same money.
Councillors met incamera after the council meeting to discuss land purchase options, likely for a new recreation hub.
Mayor Susan Samson referred to the recreation master plan which indicated a multiplex is a “now” project.
“This, in my perspective, isn’t an either or project. The multiplex is behind in the needs for the community. We need a two-pronged approach, a design committee and a fundraising committee. The only thing that is going to stall this is lack of funding.”
“If we go ahead with detailed drawings how long can we keep them?” questioned Councillor Ken MacVicar. “I’ve got growing skepticism on where the money is going to come from,” he said referring to the provincial government’s financial situation and lack of grant opportunities from the federal government.
“My level of skepticism has not dissipated, it’s increased, particularly with what’s going on in the province,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to see this go ahead in the next couple of years.” But he added if there’s money in the town’s budget for architectural work they should move ahead.
Plante said, “I think we’ve done our due diligence. At a certain point we have to test and see where the level of interest is in the community. I disagree with the skepticism. I think there’s a very easy case to make for these facilities. We have aging facilities that are going to be closed if we don’t do it. Whatever people put the priority on they will support. In Sylvan Lake people put a high priority on recreation.”
“There’s nothing in the terms of reference that say we’re going to stop this in a heartbeat,” added Asselstine.
He suggested the project could balloon to $25 million. “I can’t see how this community can come up with $25 million to develop this project.”
Samson replied that proceeding to architectural drawings will provide a more concrete figure since the $16.5 million approved was “just ball-parked”.
“It might be $25 million, we need to know that when we talk to our partners about fundraising.”
Amendments were proposed to the of reference and councillors then voted to defer the item to the next meeting. Samson voted against that motion.