Survey results indicate a strong preference for a $34.6 million pool upgrade and expansion with a waterslide in Quesnel.
Recreation manager for the City of Quesnel, Richard Gauthier shared the results from the public consultation process for the pool upgrade project Tuesday, Sept. 20, at a North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee meeting.
The public consultation process for the project at the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre was active from May 13, 2022, to July 31, 2022, with three open houses held in June at École Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary School, Bouchie Lake Hall and the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre.
An online and hard copy survey attracted 1,134 respondents, 83 per cent of whom are pool users.
Survey respondents were asked to indicate which pool upgrade option they support.
The most preferred option selected by 61.8 per cent of respondents was a $34.6 million upgrade and expansion, including a waterslide.
The second most popular choice (19.5 per cent) was a $30.7 million upgrade with expansion, not including a waterslide. Upgrades with no expansion estimated to cost $12.6 million, and “I do not support any option” tied for the third most popular choice (9.3 per cent).
Gauthier noted support for a major expansion of the facility was consistent throughout the region, with the strongest support for a major renovation coming from respondents in Cariboo Regional District Area C and I.
In 2021, the upgrade and expansion project, not including a water slide, was estimated at $20 million. However, it was turned down in a referendum that year by 52.5 per cent of eligible voters in the North Cariboo Recreation and Parks service area.
“It’s something we all must be very aware of moving out,” said city manager Byron Johnson of inflation. “The problem in my own personal experience and working at the city is when you get periods of high inflation, you can inevitably be followed by periods of lower inflation, but you usually don’t see the costs coming back off that. So you may have several years of getting back down to one or two per cent inflation, but you’ll never get a minus or negative, or it would be very rare.”
106 comments, all from survey respondents not in support of any upgrade option were submitted, with the vast majority expressing concern regarding the cost of the project, the impact on taxation and other priorities they felt should be addressed.
Quesnel mayor Bob Simpson said the disparity is reflective of people using the facility wanting to see it upgraded and people not using the facility failing to understand that an upgraded facility is essential to attracting professionals to the community, including healthcare workers, teachers and more.
”We’ve dithered on this project to the point that we’ve price-inflated it, and any further dithering, we’re going to price-inflate it. The only decision we have in front of us is when are we are going to referendum,” Simpson added. “It’s got to go back to referendum as soon as we can put it together, and the hard work for staff is to take this information and come back to us with a clean question that stops some of the noise we had last time.”
Quesnel city councillor Ron Paull’s suggestion of announcing they would be pursuing a grant for the waterslide subject to a successful referendum was criticized.
“It’s not possible from a building perspective because the building takes a different height over where that slide is going to be,” Johnson retorted. “So what do you do? Do you go ahead and make everything except the slide while you work for a grant?”
Simpson said no money is coming in from the provincial or federal governments who appear to be defaulting to more ‘hard’ infrastructure projects.
He added that further delay, such as waiting for a successful grant application, would only increase upgrade costs.
“There’s no kind of half-ass building it hoping for a grant,” city councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg said, calling it disingenuous to make such an announcement as they have not been successful on other grants.
The North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee has committed to having another referendum for renovating the Arts and Recreation Centre by April 2023.
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