New Westminster moves toward construction of new aquatic centre

New Westminster needs an answer about grant funding by the end of the year if it’s going to build an enhanced replacement for the Canada Games Pool.

The City of New Westminster has applied for a grant through the Canada Infrastructure Program to help fund the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre project. The city has been pursuing two design options for the facility – a community recreation facility, and an enhanced facility that includes the community features as well as components that allow for swim competitions.

The project is set to move from the design phase to the construction phase early in 2020 which means the city needs to know whether its grant application to the federal and provincial governments is successful. Council has stated it would only proceed with construction of an enhanced facility if it receives a grant of at least $22.4 million.

According to an Oct. 7 staff report, construction tendering will begin with initial site preparation construction activities once the final design documents are available, which is currently scheduled to be in November. Construction is scheduled to start following the first tender results, which is expected in late January or early February 2020.

Mayor Jonathan Cote said the city has been told by the provincial government that grant announcements will come out by the end of the year, so that timing isn’t too out of sync with the city’s timeline. If grants are delayed a “matter of weeks,” he said it may be prudent for the city to wait to find out the outcome of the grant application.

“I look forward to seeing this continue on the timelines that we are planning for. This is a very big project for us. There are a lot of things hinging on it getting going,” said Coun. Mary Trentadue. “I just want to make sure that we stay the course with getting started with the work.”

Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the project team has been positioning the project for having a high degree of flexibility with respect to its schedule. If needed, he said there are ways to advance the project by doing works such as site servicing, relocation of electrical services or installation of water and sewer connections before grants are awarded.

“Those are works we are going to have to do regardless of whatever the ultimate facility looks like in the end,” he said.

Cote said city officials met with Premier John Horgan recently to talk about the project. While there have been more grant applications than there is funding available, the mayor is hopeful the city’s application will be successful.

“I think there are some really important features – like being the first zero carbon pool in Canada having that accreditation. This pool not only serves the New West community but will serve a broader regional audience,” he said. “So, there no guarantees with these types of granting processes but I still remain optimistic we are going to have a successful outcome through that process.”

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr has voiced concerns about the cost of delaying construction while awaiting news about the grant application.

“Accelerating costs of construction, the provincial government tells us it’s one per cent a month,” he said. “The fact that we are able to do some of those works whether we get notification or not, we can actually start on that project – that should give us a little bit of comfort.”

The New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre facility will replace the existing Canada Games Pool and Centennial Centre.

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