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.