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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am

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Town explores new arena

The Ray MacDonald arena’s days are numbered, Morinville town council learned last week, and its replacement could cost $10 million.

Town council voted unanimously last week to draw up plans to replace the Ray McDonald Sports Centre with a new arena.

Town administrators had asked council for instructions on what to do about the aging arena.

The town’s arena is an old airplane hangar dating back to the 1940s, council learned, and is currently worth $34,415. Its roof has been repaired or replaced four times in the last two decades, most recently in 2012 at a cost of $380,000.

“We’re looking at a 70-year-old building,” said town chief administrative officer Debbie Oyarzun, one that could need up to $4.15 million in repairs next year to stay operational due to stressed beams and mould.

“It could be more than that,” she warned, as there’s no telling what problems will be found once they start work. If not fixed, the town will likely have to close the arena by the end of 2015.

She asked council if it wants to close the arena, fix it, or replace it.

“The decision is going to be in front of you very shortly during the budget process.”

Related to this was the proposed multi-use recreation centre. Council had recently received an in camera report on how to build such a centre, Mayor Lisa Holmes said in an interview, one that guides where such a centre could go and what it would feature. (The report has not been released to the public as it involves sensitive land matters, she said.)

While a new arena would be more energy-efficient and could have better seating, a report to council noted, it would not have the space to expand into a multi-use centre if it were built on the same site as the old one.

Coun. Nicole Boutestein’s motion, which council backed, was to have the town stick with planning an arena, rather than a multi-use centre, for now.

It’s council’s job to provide residents with infrastructure, said Coun. Stephen Dafoe before the vote, and that includes arenas.

“If we don’t build a pool, people will whine. If we don’t build an arena, people will riot,” he said.

Repairing a 70-year-old building makes little sense, he said.

Still, he added in an interview, “the numbers scare the hell out of me.”

Pursuing plans for a new arena will get council some firm costs that it can contemplate come budget time, he said.

If it’s approved, Holmes said construction on the arena would likely have to start next year so it could be ready before the old one closes in 2015.

“We’ll go to the community and see if it’s a priority they have.”

Interim budget approved

Morinville could spend up to $4 million in the next few months now that council has approved the interim budget for next year.

Council moved unanimously to approve its interim 2014 budget last week after little debate. The budget, calculated by taking the 2013 budget and dividing by four, is meant to keep the town running until it passes a full budget next March.

The $3,939,936 budget includes no new programs or capital projects, council has heard, and is meant to cover wages and operating costs for the first three months of 2014. The numbers in the budget are placeholders, Oyarzun said, as the town is unlikely to spend the full amounts listed in it.

Council moved last month to table the budget to get more information on it. After receiving copies of the 2012 audit and the 2013 budget and quarterly reports, council approved the interim budget without making any revisions.

Council tabled the budget in part because some of its members were unfamiliar with the budget process, Holmes said. Council has since learned that there wasn’t time to do a full formal budget consultation before the end of the year, and learned more about the numbers behind the interim budget.

Council still has full control over the budget and can even revoke this interim one if needed, Holmes said.

“It’s not restrictive,” she said.

Council is to start talks on the full 2014 budget this January.


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