Morinville might borrow as much as $3 million to help pay for the town’s new cultural community centre.
Town councillors voted unanimously to approve first reading of a borrowing bylaw at their Feb. 9 council meeting.
The facility, which will host a large theatre and banquet space as well as several meeting rooms, will be under construction when the ground thaws this spring.
The centre is being built beside Morinville Community High School and the town expects it to be largely complete by March 2011, with an opening later that spring.
The construction budget for the facility is estimated at $10.3 million, with federal and provincial grants covering most costs. The town will have to put up a portion of construction costs for outfitting and furnishing the building.
Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi said he doesn’t believe the town will have to borrow anywhere near the full amount, but the bylaw provides flexibility.
“It is providing a safety net if we need to borrow up to that amount,” he said. “We know there are going to be some soft costs for getting starting up, lighting for the theatre and perhaps seating.”
Bertschi said the town can afford the payments, pointing out council has been fiscally prudent over the years. For a municipality, Morinville has a very small amount of debt, he added.
“We have available to us [borrowing capacity of] about a total of $18 million. We currently have debt of just about $1 million.”
The debt won’t be on the town’s books for long. Administration proposed a relatively short five-year term, whereas most municipalities usually borrow over 20 or 25 years.
Doing it this way allows the town to get out of debt quickly and returns borrowing capacity to normal levels for future councils and future projects, Bertschi said. It also reduces interest costs, he added.
“We save a tremendous amount of money just by paying for it over the five years.”
Several weeks ago councillors reviewed a design for the building, which includes a large open entrance foyer with high glass walls connected to the theatre and banquet space.
Bertschi said he really likes the look of the new facility.
“They have done a great job of a doing a very modern looking building,” he said. “The space is very flexible and very useable.”
The town plans to hire a facilities manager soon to help write a detailed business plan for the facility and raise funds to help cover costs.
Bertschi said they also want to make sure the building is full from the day it opens.
“You can’t start booking things in March next year, people are looking for weddings and graduations and things right now.”