Four Seasons Pool Replacement, Real Costs Not Rock Solid
Prince George, B.C. – The second of two digital town hall meetings has concluded having spent more than an hour focusing on the proposal to borrow up to $35 million dollars to replace the Four Seasons Pool.
Built in 1970, the pool is now 47 years old and its deficiencies are well documented, from lack of access for those with mobility issues, to slippery deck tiles and inadequate change rooms. City Staff say the cost of retrofitting the existing site would be around $10.3 million, but the pool would still not be able to meet the needs in the near future.
Staff say the cost of borrowing the $35 million would equate to an additional $19.71 per $100 thousand dollars of assessment, but that number is based on today’s interest rates, and the Bank of Canada has already indicated it plans to increase its rate three times over the next year, which would trickle down to increased interest rates from the Municipal Finance Authority. Director of Finance Kris Dalio says there is no way of knowing what the interest rate may be when the City actually needs to borrow the money, “We are working with the best information we have at the moment.”
The cost of borrowing the $35 million for a new pool would add about 2.34% to the tax levy. If the Firehall #1 replacement project is also approved, that would add a further $8.45 to every hundred thousand dollars of assessment, and push the increase for the tax levy to 3.4%.
That leaves little to no wriggle room when the City may also be facing increased costs across the board for operational expenses, including labour, hydro, fleet expenses, etc. “We will of course look at all the cost drivers from year to year” says Dalio “but that is really part of the referendum. We’re asking the public, is it ok to take on these costs, we will of course offset costs where we can, but we want the public to be aware of what the costs are ahead of time.”
The selected site is the block which is the current home to the Days Inn. The cost to purchase the Days Inn property is $4.5 million, and demolition of that site, and the current Four Seasons Pool would cost a further $2.5 million.
Just one block further to the north, the City owns half of the block on 6th Avenue between Quebec and Dominion. When asked why the City didn’t opt to build a new pool on that site instead of purchasing the Days Inn property, Director of Planning Ian Wells says the 6th avenue property isn’t large enough for the proposed new pool, and that there would be increased costs to move services.
There is some good financial news, in that the legacy from the Terasen Gas lease in- lease out project will come due in 2021. That legacy is expected to be an estimated $21 million dollars. While it could be used to pay down debt, Finance Director Kris Dalio says the loan with the Municipal Finance Authority would prevent the City from making any payments on the principle for ten years.
City Manager Kathleen Soltis says the City will be applying for grants from other entities.
There had been discussion over the City working in conjunction with the YMCA but Soltis says that model doesn’t work. That the YMCA uses Volunteers, and wages are not in keeping with the union contracted staff who work for the City. She says the YMCA also offsets its operating costs through the sale of gym memberships and it wouldn’t be appropriate for the City to be involved in a venture that would be competing with privately owned and operated gyms.
The referendum is set for October 28th.
“the YMCA uses Volunteers, and wages are not in keeping with the union contracted staff who work for the City”
Interesting that the City promoted the creation of a Society to look at a Performing Arts Centre and funded it for that purpose, without payment for all the volunteer work that was involved with that instead of using their own staff.
Not only that, but if a PAC were ever to be built here, it would likely be operated by a Society which would typically depend on a considerable amount of volunteer labour.
In fact, the Playhouse is rented out to be operated by non-City staff.
So, exactly what would be wrong with a pool operated by the Y as a partner in the financing of the capital investment?
I watched the presentation.
Very smooth with reporters who have little knowledge of the real workings of such an operation and capital project.
We need an “expert” panel for such a question and answer session to put the City to a real test.
BTW, Elaine, you did the best job. Thank you for that.
The Mayor sure got his back up on the question of the $12million Vanderhoof pool. Body language says a lot.
Size of the city has to do with the number of basins and types of basins.
A 6 lane, 25 meter pool is that no matter where you go. The standard for washrooms and change rooms is based on the types of basins and other features such as hot tubs, saunas, gyms, etc. They are independent of community size.
The number of pool facilities is dependent on community size. Not only that, it is dependent on the spread of the municipality. Commuting distance to a facility is an important factor.
There are no fixed standards, but the range is probably about 20,000 to 25,000 people per facility. That means PG should have three separate facilities, not two. Given the area immediately surrounding the City is closer to 80,000, it should be considered as a regional pool for that area with some funding coming from the regional district for one of the pools as a shared project, similar to the museums as well as the PAC if it should ever get built.
In addition, we are looking at future planning. What will the population growth be and where will it be?
Given such considerations, a very solid argument could be made for a pool facility, similar to the Vanderhoof one with two basins, for $12million in College Heights as well as the Hart and one of similar size at the Y to serve the central part of the City. That makes three + the Aquatic Centre, which could be looked at as the Regional pool with shared operating costs, and the regional capital component that we paid for being a donation to the region.
LIN – Leisure Information Network, is a Canadian organization dealing with recreation planning.
They have set some guidelines for developing public recreation facility standards for communities.
Public participation is a key part to that effort. Elaine went to that aspect in her questioning. She got the “cold shoulder” reaction from administrators who should know better.
Here is what LIN says about public participation:
Throughout the planning process provision should be made to involve the local citizens for whom the recreation facility is being developed. Only in this way can the recreation authority be sure that its plans, when finally implemented, are a relevant response to the needs of the users.
By providing an opportunity for interested citizens to participate, the outcome of the project is more likely to be successful. By incorporating the ideas, suggestions and criticisms of citizens, the project becomes a community effort.
Citizen involvement, whether in large cities or small towns, helps to create and sustain greater community support for the facilities and services being planned.
Source = lin.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/jk52.htm
Here is what LIN states about the Dangers of Tokenism
Much of what is called citizen participation is only token participation and allows little opportunity for the public to influence the plan in a meaningful way. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between genuine participation and tokenism, since similar methods may be used in both cases. No doubt, in some situations, token participation is practiced unconsciously due to a lack of knowledge of how to facilitate true citizen involvement. Sometimes people are not provided with the opportunity to grow and increase their awareness of the many considerations necessary in plan development. As pointed out by Arnstein both the planning officials and the citizens may feel they are involving the public when, in fact, they are only playing at it.
D. M. Connor (from Partisans to Partners; 1972) (yes, you are reading correctly …. 1972 !) offers a good working guide to determine when public participation is and is not happening.
Public participation is happening when:
• the professionals listen to residents concerning their attitudes, goals, fears and factual suggestions
• citizens FIND EARLY and convenient opportunities to make positive contributions
• citizens learn from the professionals a broader and deeper knowledge and understanding of their environment, its potential and its fragility
• individuals, interest groups and agencies are identifying their own positions, recognizing those of others and working towards a solution cooperatively
• relationships between the professionals, politicians and other people are strengthened so that communication barriers are breached, and mutual trust increases as a foundation for communities to function more effectively in every way.
Public participation is NOT:
• selling a pre-determined solution by public relations techniques
• planning behind closed doors when information can be shared
• one-way communication, e.g. the professional telling people what is best for them
• public confrontations between “people-power” versus the bureaucracy
• by-passing elected representatives or impairing their freedom to exercise their decision-making responsibilities.
I found that the myPG process tried very hard and succeeded to follow those principles. When I see proposals such as the BC transit facility misplaced proposal, I have to wonder whether it did any good.
I cannot see where that happened in the process used for the decisions about future pool facilities in PG. From the available documentation, it failed.
How does one secure public participation?
According to LIN:
Several methods for involving people in the planning process and the relative effectiveness of each are contained in GUIDELINES FOR LAND USE PLANNING (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, January, 1974 pp. 10 to 14) (yes, once again 40+ year old material) including:
1. workshops and seminars, (advertised and open to all)
2. the use of key people,
3. interest groups, (from ALL parts of the City)
4. storefront displays, (downtown, pine centre, College Heights, the Hart)
5. advisory committees,
6. public hearings,
7. surveys and questionnaires and
8. the use of the news media – from the start, including taking advantage of Public Service Announcements.
Sure seems like taxes are going to go through the roof. 3.4% increase before the usual 3.5% we are hit with every year for a total of 6.9% tax increase. I wonder how that will fly with the tax payer.
Do we not ever get anything paid for and see the tax rate decrease? Vanderhoof can build a 12 million dollar pool and have the “Y” operate it but doesn’t fit with PG because our pool workers make in excess of twice the minimum wage and volunteers are a no, no for PG.
Glad to see the peter principle alive and well at city hall.
Too many 10 dollar millionaires running the show, with some one else’s money
Originally I was going to vote Yes for both the fire hall and the pool projects. After discovering that both of these proposals are based on vague assumptions as per ultimate cost and eventual increases in cost of borrowing, lack of design details etc I am now very anxious to register my No vote.
“City Manager Kathleen Soltis says the City will be applying for grants from other entities.” Securing certainty about that possibility should have been done before! Too many carts in front of the donkey!
note, nobody is saying no to the firehall.
But they should be questioning the 15 million dollar price tag.
I am. Too much overlap of services and who would ever plan to put the emergency response center in a flood plain.
I could support a new firehall, but not as part of a hair brained idea to clear land for a PAC.
gopg2015 makes some good points. I would day that the City is closer to the Public participation is NOT, than to the Public participation IS scenario at this time.
There are still a lot of questions out there about costs, financing, location, etc; etc;. Once again the City administration has made all the decisions and then basically came to the public for a stamp of approval for their concept. The real cost of borrowing over 20 years needs to be discussed, along with other issues.
I lean toward supporting the pool issue, but only if I feel comfortable that the City looked at all aspects and came up with the best case scenario. I am not convinced at the point in time that, that has happened.
The referendum is when the public gets to make the decision on whether or not the City can borrow money for this project. To get approval the City needs to be front and center on all issues.
The $21 million Terasen lease-in-lease-out is a red herring. It comes due in 2021, but no principal payments on the loan with the Municipal Finance Authority can be made until 2029. You really think they’ll sit on that money for eight years?
The City granted tens of millions of Federal Gas tax grant dollars – money that could have been spent on a multitude of projects within the city – to a private developer for the “build it and they will come” Boundary Rd development. We can all see how successful that little venture is.
I really hope people are paying attention and vote NO. The TRUE cost, today, is at
least $76 million.
By far the most outrageous statement in the article is the one by “Finance Director” Kris Dalio that when the Fortis deal comes to an end the money the city receives cannot be used to retire debt from the new pool if it gets a nod from voters.
Typical bean counter tunnel vision, the subject is the new pool so that is the only bucket of beans in his field of vision. And he gets $167k a year?
A two minute search on the city website finds millions of dollars of debt that could be retired that fall into the MFA guidelines. A few examples:
-Three loans for the new RCMP building totaling $11.3 Million
-Road rehabilitation $.5 million
-Cameron Street bridge- two loans totaling $4.5 million
-River Road reconstruction $3.3 million
Granted some of the principal on these will be paid off by 2021 but if they put the money in a mattress for a year or two there is a $9 million RCMP loan that could be retired in 2024.
One can only hope that whoever sits on council does not treat the $21 million from fortis as found money and spend it like drunken sailors(heated bike lanes for year round commuting:)
The city manager says any partnership with the Y will not work because of wage issues and competition with the private sector…..another argument full of holes. The city owned golf course directly competes with privately owned facilities and the city is on the hook for capital upgrades like sprinkler systems giving it another advantage over the private sector courses.
Does the city monitor the wages paid at Pine Valley to ensure they are in line with what a CUPE employee would get for similar work? Kinda doubt it.
Sparrow. What privately owned golf courses does Pine Valley compete with.
Alder Hills, Ness Wood, and the Links of Maggie May are not in the City of Prince George. The Prince George Golf and Curling club is a registered Society and receives a tax exemption from the City in the area of $195,000.00 per year.
So the only private golf course in the City is Aberdeen, which seems to be doing quite well.
Pine Valley is much closer to being a private course because it is run by a contract with the City and the City pays very little to keep this course running.
You forgot to mention another course that is within the city limits that is direct competition to Pine Valley as basically a pitch and putt short course and that is Yellowhead Grove…oh yea I forget it is no longer open which would might not be the case if it could ask council to pay for necessary improvements. The other courses also compete for the same golf dollar without taxpayer support and while not in city limits do use city businesses and services.
That being said the point was that the city does compete with the private sector and so Soltis’ claim that the city cannot work in conjunction with the Y to operate the pool is pure bunk.
Pal, Alder Hills is in city limits.
Sparrow. The Yellowhead was sold because it got an offer from private business that it could not refuse. Otherwise it would probably still be operating.
The other course I forgot to mention was Aspen Grove, which is also outside City Limits. So in effect we have no Private Golf courses in the City of Prince George with the exception of Aberdeen which is doing quite well.
Why would any taxpayer in the City of Prince George, be concerned about the well being of Golf courses outside the City, especially when they pay no taxes to the City, and get much cheaper tax rates from the Regional District. You could make an argument that those course’s outside the city limits are subsidized by lower taxes, and therefore are unfair competition to Aberdeen, and to Pine Valley.
Having said that, I get your point.
The city had an offer for Pine Valley that they should not have refused. Could have rebuild the course at another location and still stuffed millions in their jeans.
Alder Hills is in the City limits. My boo boo. So he pays taxes, probably in the area of what Pine Valley pays to the city over the years.
Sparrow. The City received the Pine Valley property from the Federal Government for free with the proviso that it be used for recreational purposes in perpetuity. What part of perpetuity do you not understand.
Perhaps if you want to sell the property to private developers you should return it to the Federal Government so they can sell it.
It is you that is naive if you think these land use contracts with various levels of government are set in stone. If the city were to show that they would provide equal or improved services at a new location with the additional benefit of what the money left over could provide the city no doubt the feds would go along. These type of arrangements happen all the time.
The whole argument about other golf courses being out of City limits is completely bogus and Pal knows it. They all compete for the same dollars regardless of whether they’re a couple of km outside the City’s boundary.
Pal’s love for Pine Valley is not logical considering his position on other topics. There must be more to the story.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder Shackleford. You would look pretty ugly too if you were attacked by pine beetles, however I doubt that we would try to sell you to developers to upgrade to their perception as to what is beautiful.
The course has had new tree’s planted and many other upgrades, and will get more upgrades in the future. I don’t have the figures as to how many people used these facilities in 2016 however I know that they are on the rise.
The Prince George Golf and Curling Club has been devastated by the Pine Beetle . Perhaps they should sell of their **Prime** property and relocate somewhere else. They actually considered doing that, not so long ago.
In any event its not about **prime real estate** its about juniors, seniors, people with mobility issues, and the public at large, and green space in the city. The prime real estate seekers can look elsewhere for their easy money ventures.
There is not more to the story. Pine Valley Golf Course is a small par 3 course located in the City and easily accessible to seniors, juniors, and others with disabilities.
It is well used and appreciated by the people of Prince George. To sell off this land for commercial development at the expense of those who use it is absolute BS. Building another course further away at say the bottom of College Heights as they proposed years ago is also bogus.
Simple put, everyone knows that the hungry developers want this land so that they can make some money. I say find your development land somewhere else. There is no shortage of land in Prince George.
There are lots of small community golf courses in BC especially in the Vancouver area, and one in particular in Qualicum, that developers would not have the balls to try and take over and develop. The people where these courses are located would put the run on them.
There is more to life than developing property and putting up stupid buildings, and goofy car lots, with flags waving in the wind.
The next thing you know they will want to build on stilts over the graveyard across the street from Pine Valley, or perhaps move the graves so that they can put in another car lot.
Have a nice day.
It is not well used. It may have been at one time back in the 80s and 90s, but after the Pine Beetle devastated it, it is nothing more than an ugly course on prime real estate.
The city doesn’t need 2 pools, close it down and sell off the land. Expand the Aquatic Centre down the road if it is needed, there is a ton of land around the area for expansion.
Why are they building another pool in the same area when all the growth appears to be out of the Bowl area.
Population density ?
What population density? Millar Subdivision? Connaught? VLA? …. the distance for several of those is just as close or closer to the Y location.
The promises of the elected council and the very high paid staff are to achieve a single purpose, the support of the voter for the already determined plans.
I recall when the southwest portions were being courted to becoming a part of the City, a significant promise was the building of a pool for those residents in their area. We all can see how well that has worked out.
I think that the suggestion to build 3 – $12 million dollar pools to complement the aquatic centre makes the most sense.
I agree and pay for them with reserve funds set aside for that purpuse.
Once the $21 Million from the gas deal comes through in 2021 build the first two in college heights and the hart… and then number three in 2030.
US Federal reeerve announced yesterday they are unwinding their $4.5 Trillion dollar ballance sheet of acquired financial assets (ie municipal, state, and federal bonds)… 30 years of purchasing to hold rates down blowing up ponzi scheme asset bubble after ponzi scheme asset bubble. Without the fed buying artificially holding rates down, rates are set to go up and when they do it will happen fast. My bet is before they break ground rates ste up 3%. If its like 1984 the city is bankrupt before the first person swims in the pool.
Best case scenario is to wait three years for the 21 Million and then invest in what we can afford not what a dreamer at city hall wants to finance.
IMO the whole reason to rush it through now with debt and financial ucertainties is nothing less than to clear the land so the PAC can be built with the gas deal funds, and have the new pool approved by this Council and not one to follow after the next municipal election. And havr it all approved before the first rate increase in five years.
Global report out this week had Canada second only to China in debt risk to the economy and predicted tough times ahead for both economies as a result. Debt risk to economy and central banks reversing three decades of asset purchases on their ballance sheet equals sharp rise in intrest rates around the corner….
“…the support of the voter for the already determined plans.”
They are determined to move go ahead with what they have decided is the one and only way to go. The only question is when. I do not think that they would have wasted the taxpayers’ money by having architects make designs that fall into the amounts they are asking the voters approve! Either use them now or later! But they would be used since one cannot build without them and eventually they would be required anyways! This way voters have to approve of something for which there is no preliminary design and no fixed budget!
As per earlier post that pointed out how the mayor reacted to how Vanderhoof can get a pool for $12 million whereas ours will come in at three times that amount and for good reason . Attached is a link for a report the city bought and paid for on condition of city buildings.
On page 19 the estimated cost to replace the Four Seasons is $11 million (2015 dollars) which is in line with Vanderhoof’s costs.
Then on page 26 the Building Condition Index shows that Four Seasons is not in that bad shape other than the exterior enclosure that has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. They even have a 10 year plan to address the work required to bring the building back from the brink.
So did the city fathers go down the path where Tetra Tec said that replacement would be in the $11 million range- NOPE- Hired another consulting firm who recommended the Cadillac solutions topping out at an eye watering $60 million+++ where we would still end up with only two pools both located in the bowl.Nice!
I just opened their report. It’ll be bed time reading….:-)
I always get a kick out of reading a page in a report that has the words “This page intentionally left blank” written on it.
So I keep looking for the blank page and can never find it…….
Show me any city project that came in on budget?
The end of 250 forum cannot come soon enough for city hall.
seamutt, you make a point that we can all agree upon I believe … hopefully, something will arise from the ashes
I also hope something will rise and keep a similar forum available for people to vent their spleen, exchange thoughts and ideas, and debate various issue’s in the city and surrounding area.
Without 250 or something similar, we are basically hamstrung when it comes to instant comment on issues.
You can still comment on the Citizen’s website, although in a more limited capacity.
The more that I read, listen to and learn about the pool and fire hall issue, the less inclined I am to vote if favour of either!
Seems City Hall has already decided what they intend to do and they hope that most voters as usual do not research or know anything about what they are actually voting for!
The City doesn’t need another pool. Simply close Four Seasons.
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