Morinville council approves field house


Saves $5.4 mil but means half-year delay

Town council voted to fast track its new rec-centre last week by adding a field house to phase one – a decision that could add up to $72 a year to your tax bill.

Town council voted unanimously last June 27 in favour of a motion from Mayor Lisa Holmes to build the rec-centre’s new arena and field house at the same time.

Council had originally planned to build just an arena in the rec-centre’s first phase and do a field house a few years later. Earlier this month, they learned that they could save $6.5 million by doing both at the same time.

Town chief administrative officer Andy Isbister revised that down to $5.4 million last week, as the previous estimate did not include the cost of the field house’s running track.

“This is a very significant savings to do it at the same time.”

Council’s vote means that the town will now spend about $24.3 million on the first phase of the rec-centre. About $17.2 million of this will be for the arena, $6 million for the field-house (down from the original $12.5 million), and about $1.1 million for a ground-level running track. (A raised track would cost about $2.5 million, council heard.)

Council will have to borrow $10.9 to $14.1 million to fund this decision depending on what it gets in sponsorships, grants and donations, Isbister said. That will cost taxpayers anywhere from $20 a year for the next 10 years or $72 a year for the next 15 – equivalent to a 0.98 to 3.6 per cent a year tax hike.

The town will not have to cancel anything in its 25-year capital plan and will have about $3.9 million of borrowing capacity left even if it borrows $14.1 million for this project, Isbister said.

“We feel it’s a viable project.”

Still, the town will have to push back the rec-centre’s opening six months to February 2019, and delay purchase of a new RCMP building, expanded fire hall, and fire truck by two to four years, Isbister continued. It may also have to cut spending on parks improvements to $100,000 a year from $160,000.

The aquatics centre is likely still 10 years away, as the town needs about 15,000 residents to support its operating costs, Isbister said. He recommended paying off this new debt in five years in case rapid growth justifies building a pool sooner.

Biggest project ever

This rec-centre will let the town host grads, entertainers and special events it can’t currently fit in the community cultural centre, Holmes said. It will also be part of some $60 million in new projects set to open in town in 2019, which includes two new schools.

“It’s exciting. This is the biggest project Morinville has ever built.”

Coun. Rob Ladouceur said this was a tremendous opportunity that will save the town millions and create a facility found nowhere else in the community. Building it today means avoiding higher costs later, Coun. Stephen Dafoe added.

Councillors Gord Putnam and Nicole Boutestein described it as “a leap of faith,” but said this move will bring significant growth to Morinville.

“I think this is going to be a great addition to our community,” Boutestein said.

Holmes said this addition should make it easier to draw sponsorships for the rec-centre.

“We need to come to terms with Sturgeon County soon,” she said, saying that the county would have to decide if it actually wanted to support this project.

“If not, they’re going to start answering to the people in the region who we are providing the service for.”

Isbister said he had not received word back from the county, but predicted they would likely chip in up to $150,000 a year to support the field house’s operations.

In an interview, Holmes predicted that the town would see at most a one per cent tax hike as a result of the decision to build the field house, as both Sturgeon County and the community would step up with sponsorships.

“To get a $25 million facility for that small amount … is pretty amazing.”

This decision shows that council is working to anticipate Morinville’s needs in a cost-efficient manner, Holmes said.

“This is a great opportunity for us to spend a little bit more and get double the facility.”


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.