At Morinville Council: rec centre costs, Canada Day, and the future of Champion


Rec-centre cost revealed

Morinville’s rec-centre may cost some $68 million to build and $2.6 million a year to operate, suggests a new report.

But the town’s mayor-elect says he’s confident the town’s growth will pay for it.

Town council received the long-awaited business case for the community recreation facility at its regular meeting last week. A joint project with Sturgeon County, the document is meant to help the town rally funds for the new facility.

Sturgeon County has repeatedly said that they wanted this study done to prove that this facility was needed, said Morinville Mayor Lisa Holmes.

“I believe we’ve done that.”

The study estimates that the rec-centre would cost $67.8 million plus or minus 25 per cent at full build-out – $24.3 million for the rink and field house (now under construction) and $43.5 million for the pool, second sheet and outdoor rink (which have yet to be approved).

The study found that the full facility would operate at about a $1.7 million deficit by its third year plus or minus 20 per cent, as it would make about $870,000 but cost $2.6 million to run. About $1.7 million of that cost was due to staff.

Pools aren’t cheap, said mayor-elect Barry Turner, when asked about these costs, “and quite frankly, that’s why we don’t have one yet.”

But the aquatics phase of the rec-centre is seven to 10 years away and the town was poised to see substantial growth in that time, he continued.

“I’ve got all the faith in the world that Morinville will be ready when the time comes.”

Holmes said council had yet to officially ask Sturgeon County for financial help on the rec-centre, as it wanted to give them time to consult their residents about the project. Still, the time when the county would have a chance to chip in was coming up soon, and “we need to address it.”

Historical end to Canada Day

The folks behind Morinville’s Canada Day celebrations are stepping down and passing the torch back to the town.

Morinville Historical and Cultural Society treasurer Murray Knight gave town council his final report on the 2017 Canada Day celebrations last week in his usual frenetic, bombastic manner.

Knight and the society have organized the celebrations since 2011 with the town’s financial support. The event has grown considerably since then, with about a thousand people attending this year’s event compared to just 125 at the first.

While Knight has enthusiastically returned unused festival grant money to the town in recent years, he said that the group was over-budget this year by about $896 due in most part to a decision to bring the ETS  Pipe and Drum Band. Council agreed to cover this cost, bringing its contribution to about $13,396.

In another twist, Knight told council that the society voted at its last meeting to step aside as the festival’s organizer after seven years.

“We are very proud and honoured to provide a celebration our community could be a part of,” he said, fighting back tears.

In an interview, Knight said the group had to step aside due to age – most of its members were close to 80.

“If we were 50 years old, we’d be talking about doing it for the next 20 years.”

Knight said the group was now in talks to have the town take over the event, and would likely continue to volunteer for it.

Holmes thanked Knight for his years of service.

“Taking the Historical Society officially out of the mix does not take you out of the mix,” she said, joking that he would be there at Canada Day 2018 to boss around the town’s new mayor.

Council gave Knight a standing ovation.

Champion posts plans

Morinville workers may have to commute to Parkland County in 2019 as Champion Petfoods retools the local plant for new markets, says the company’s president.

Champion Petfoods president Frank Burdzy spoke to town council last week about his plans for his company’s Morinville pet food plant.

The future of the plant, which is one of the town’s largest employers, has been in doubt ever since the company started building a new plant in Parkland County this year.

Burdzy acknowledged that he’d gotten many questions about the Morinville plant, and said the company had two options on the table: new products or new markets. Both options would involve a “fairly substantial” renovation to the plant in 2019.

Having two plants instead of just one would let Champion more thoroughly separate its ingredients, allowing it to meet strict international regulations for certain products and markets, Burdzy explained.

“The markets are there. We’ve just got to be able to access them.”

Champion has a lot of trained staff in Morinville who want to stay in town, and Burdzy said he wants to keep them there. In an email, though, he said some staff might have to temporarily move over to Parkland plant as the Morinville one spins down for renovations.


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.