Quesnel’s pool would be closed during the $20 million renovations. Melanie Law/Observer file photo

Quesnel’s pool would be closed during the $20 million renovations. Melanie Law/Observer file photo

Public will be asked to approve $20 million pool upgrade

A referendum will take place on June 19, for funding renovations at the Quesnel Arts and Rec Centre

It will be up to Quesnel residents to decide on if proposed renovations to the Quesnel Rec Centre’s poolside area will move forward.

The North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee, made up of Quesnel city councillors and Cariboo Regional District directors moved forward with a referendum on the project. Voters will weigh in on a proposed $20 million project on Saturday, June 19.

During the meeting, the committee debated when the referendum would take place, what the scope of the project will be and how much to authorize spending.

The renovation would include a new leisure pool, sauna, family change rooms and whirlpool alongside a re-tiling of the area around the 25 m pool. A proposed waterslide is no longer in the cards after the committee deemed it too expensive.

“[It’s] not just the cost of the initial construction, but the extra operating costs of when one’s there,” CRD Area C Director John Massier said. “Waterslides are great in a pool, but it would add significant costs to the project, and the ongoing running.”

Debate around the date of the referendum was the largest discussion topic, with some on the committee advocating for a September date. Staff recommended the June date, and the committee decided to follow their recommendation.

“I think we’re hard pressed now with the June deadline, and staff would have a harder time putting [the referendum package] together,” CRD Area I director Jim Glassford said. “With COVID-19, we’ll have a harder time with meetings, and hopefully by the time we go through the summer and into September, maybe that’s eased up a bit.”

Delaying the project could raise costs. The project’s estimatate price tag has increased $2.5 million since last spring.

READ MORE: Debate over waterslide omission from a CRD federal grant request

“Staff has indicated that while it may be a tight timeline, June is doable, and they’re the ones who will have to do the work — not us,” Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson said.

Not all committee members were convinced the pandemic will cause issues with communications.

“One of the positive things with COVID-19 is we have better electronic communications then we’ve ever had, and people are paying attention to them more,” Quesnel city councillor Martin Runge said. “I don’t think pushing it off is doing us any favours other than increasing the costs.”

Simpson added his own reccomendations on what the committee’s communications strategy should be around the referendum. He pitched the project as a potential savings.

“It has to be clear to the community we’re going to have to invest in that building,” Simpson said. “Not investing in that building is not an option… and if we don’t do an intervention now, we might be coming back to them three years from now, four years from now, five years from now, with a $50 million investment.”

If the project is approved, the pool would be closed for over a year while construction takes place. If the pool remains open during construction, the project would take months longer and cost $4 million more.

Area B Director Barbara Bachmeier hoped the pool would remain open during construction and asked for authorization for an extra $2 million “buffer” for the project, just in case it goes over budget.

Staff noted in the report keeping the pool open during construction would delay the project, and add $4 million to the price tag.

READ MORE: City, CRD approve potential referendum for rec centre upgrades

The rest of the committee decided to follow the reccomendations.

The money borrowed would be paid back over 25 years. The Committee would apply for grants to reduce the cost to taxpayers if one was made available in between the referendum and construction.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


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