Recreation staff in Castlegar will be busy the next two weeks preparing a grant application to upgrade the Castlegar community complex.
The board of the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission passed a motion Tuesday night giving staff the go-ahead to apply for millions in funding.
“It would have been nice to have a bit more time, but we’ll work through it,” said Castlegar recreation manager Jim Crockett after the meeting.
Crockett is leading the team in preparing the application to the federal and provincial grant authorities.
“We have a whole series of questions that have to be answered through the grant and we have to plug our way through that and get all the necessary paperwork together and motions for the board.”
After months of dithering and debate, the commission finally approved a $19.37-million plan that would see a new social space, running track, improved fitness centre and pool upgrades.
It’s a scaled-down version of the plan rejected by voters in a referendum last summer, and it comes with a much smaller price tag.
The majority (73 per cent) of the project could be paid for by a federal and provincial infrastructure program.
If the project gets the maximum allowable grant funding, it would still leave local taxpayers on the hook for roughly $6 million.
If approved by the RDCK board at its Jan. 17 meeting, that cost would be funded by draining $1 million from RDCK reserves, plus borrowing $5 million to be paid off over five years.
Other sources of potential funding, such as the Columbia Basin Trust or corporate donors, could reduce the cost further.
The motion to pursue the grant application was passed with only one dissenting vote from Area I director Andy Davidoff. He had presented a proposal early in the meeting for a much smaller project — about $5.5 million worth of improvements — that he said would require no tax increase. However, that motion found no support from any of the other commissioners.
After the meeting, Davidoff said his concern was that spiralling costs could put taxpayers on the hook for millions.
“My concern is all about how much can my ratepayers absorb over one year, or for a four-year period of time,” said Davidoff.
“I believe the commission could have chosen to address the actual needs, which are fitness and wellness, and do it in a more fiscally responsible way. And that was the difference between my proposal and what the rest of the commissioners proposed.”
The grant application decision was just one hurdle the upgrades face.
The project proposal has to be approved by federal and provincial authorities, and if the full $13 million isn’t granted, the project couldbe scaled down or even cancelled.
“Until that announcement comes through, the commission doesn’t know what it’s working with when it comes to potential impact on the taxpayer or what the project is going to end up looking like,” said RDCK chief admistrative officer Stuart Horn. “If the grant comes in way lower than we hope, than the commission will have to make a decision if the project moves forward, and in what form.”
In the meantime, staff will be working to meet the various requirements of the grant process. The deadline for submitting an application is Jan. 23.
“All we can do is the best we can in the time we have,” said Crockett. “We’ll put our best foot forward.”