The estimate to replace the roof and perform other upgrades at the Revelstoke Forum has jumped by 39%, and now sits at $13.9 million dollars.
That increase comes since Revelstoke city council wrestled with the issue in front of a packed council chambers just two weeks ago, on Jan. 8. At that meeting, council approved a city staff request to apply for a grant from the Canada Infrastructure Program — Rural and Northern Communities program. In order to get the grant, the city needs to commit 10 per cent of the funding because the grant opportunity covers up to 90% of project costs. The plan approved by council on Jan. 8 was to commit $1 million to the project, and ask for $9 million from the federal-provincial program, for a total of $10 million.
Now, a new late-item report that was added onto the city council agenda a day before their Jan. 22 meeting says the initial estimate of $10 million was “based on engineering reports that were several years old.” A report by Parks, Recreation and Culture director Laurie Donato states that city staff reviewed the costs of the project with engineering and architecture consultants in the past week. “Both professionals have advised that costs have significantly gone up in the last year mainly due to labour and lumber costs.” Now, plans to replace the roof, add women’s change rooms, add accessibility lifts, and build a new entrance-way are estimated to cost $13.9 million.
As a result, staff are asking council to approve a borrowing bylaw for $1.39 million at their Jan. 22 regular meeting, up from the previously planned $1 million. The borrowing bylaw is a requirement of the grant application; the staff plan is to do the first three readings of the bylaw at their Jan. 22 meeting, then wait to see if the grant application is successful before proceeding with final adoption.
An ‘Arena Needs Assessment‘ report dated to late 2017, but published for the first time in early January, estimated the cost of the roof replacement and major upgrades at $10.9 million, which is, of course, higher than the $10 million estimate put before council on Jan. 8. In an interview before the Jan. 8 meeting, the Mountaineer asked parks director Laurie Donato about the difference. She said that the decision to budget the project at $10 million was in part due to a $10 million threshold in the Canada Infrastructure Program — Rural and Northern Communities program. Projects that will cost more than $10 million are subject to “climate lens assessment” that explores greenhouse gas emissions, including cost-per-tonne calculations. Donato said that threshold was a “consideration” in the decision to set the project at $10 million. In addition, the $10.9 million estimate for the roof replacement and upgrade contained a number of improvements that may have been left out of the $10 million project. Either way, a $13.9 million project will go before council this week.
The Arena Needs Assessment noted that the $10.9 million repair and upgrade option would cost the average Revelstoke home (based on a median assessed value of $346,000) $295 per year in additional taxes, spread over a 15-year loan period. The report does note this price tag is an estimate based on a number of variables. That number is for the full cost of the upgrade, not including any grants.
The staff report to be discussed at the Jan. 22 city council meeting estimates the cost of borrowing $1.39 million would amount to a 0.7% increase in in annual taxes to cover the debt servicing costs. Neither the borrowing bylaw nor the staff report states the amortization period.
If the grant application is successful, voters will have an opportunity to oppose the borrowing bylaw through a counter-petition process. If 10% of the voters write in to oppose the borrowing, the bylaw would then proceed to a referendum process. If the grant application is 100% successful, leveraging a dollar with a dime to fix a longstanding infrastructure problem could be attractive to taxpayers. However, if the grant offer is for less than the full amount, there will be tougher decisions for council and taxpayers down the road. The results of the grant funding application are expected to be announced in late spring or in summer of this year.
Council will consider the increased project cost, a $1.39 million borrowing bylaw for the project, and amendments to the five-year financial plan on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. in council chambers. The meetings are open to the public.