A Cariboo Regional District (CRD) director and city councillor in attendance at the North Cariboo Joint Planning committee meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 15) expressed their displeasure at the suggestion a proposed waterslide for the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre be cut from a federal grant proposal.
At a meeting on Oct. 9, the committee passed a resolution recommending the CRD submit an application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) to help with the renovation of the community swimming pool.
The total cost of the project, which included bringing the pool deck up, updating the washrooms and changerooms, bolstering the mechanical systems that keep the pool running and building lazy river and waterslide features, was estimated at slightly more than $20 million.
Without the waterslide included, the estimate drops to just under $17.5 million.
An $8 million loan authorization bylaw, which is scheduled to be presented to the CRD board for review before being put out to a referendum, combined with a $9 million grant and almost $500,000 in federal Gas Tax Funds, would pay for the project.
Area A Director Mary Sjostrom and Quesnel Coun. Ron Paull were in agreement that a slide would be a major draw for local residents.
Director Sjostrom asked to know more about why the slide was being removed from the proposed project plan.
Director of community services Jeff Norburn indicated he was cautioned about submitting an application that might ask for too much by the officials in charge of providing the grant money.
“In the conversation I had with them, they indicated that we were asking for too big a piece of the pie,” he said.
The ICIP – Community, Culture and Recreation Program (CCR) has committed to providing $134 million to projects across the province.
“We started looking at how we could make the budget work and get the most money out of this program that we thought was a realistic ask and still had a budget that worked,” he continued.
“We realized the waterslide component is basically a 2.5-million-dollar addition to the project and we could submit the application without that.”
For clarification, Norburn added if a grant is secured for $9 million, the committee could still go to referendum for more money.
“But in terms of the value that you get for a $2.5-million waterslide compared to everything else, like the lazy river which we can argue benefits seniors and people with disabilities as well as kids, the waterslide really didn’t add very much to the grant application.”
Sjostrom admitted the money made sense but made her thoughts clear on how important the slide was purported to be.
“For many years, the slide was always higher up in the priority list,” she said. “I see it as a big draw for the various communities in British Columbia that have them.”
Mayor Bob Simpson conceded a previous desire for the slide but stood by the plans for the application.
“The slide always had that kind of panache to it, but it is the only phase that you can hive off as a stand-alone and [potentially] add on later because it’s not integrated into the water system, as it has its own,” he said.
“But it’s also part of the reason that the operating costs go up, because that slide brings in extra staffing required [to operate it], so that was part of the decision making matrix.”
Coun. Paull weighed in on the debate, saying: “I worry the waterslide is probably the pinnacle of the attraction and when it comes to referendum, we’re going to have a tougher job selling it.’”
He also asked what the estimate would be if the waterslide would be put in at a later date, as well as what a retrofit will look like.
Although Norburn was unable to provide numbers on the spot, he did mention the design plans are not too far along.
“We’re in the schematic concept phase, so it’s not like we’ve taken the design so far that we wouldn’t be turning back,” he said.
“We would direct the architect to say we need to build in the capacity to build a waterslide that may become a phase at a later date, and we would build that capacity in terms of mechanical systems and floor space.”
The deadline for application to the program is Jan. 23.
Mayor Simpson also discussed the City and North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee Vice -hair John Massier sending accompanying letters with the grant to further improve its chances of being accepted.