The ongoing saga of funding for new Carleton Place arena dressing rooms was on the agenda of the town’s policy review committee June 27, with councillors voting to hold a meeting of key stakeholders this fall, put out a tender document in early 2018, and support in principle the installation of an interim facility to house temporary dressing rooms until the issue is ultimately resolved.
The renovations have been the subject of often fractious debate at council, with questions raised about why there seemed to be little interest in putting out a tender amidst a backdrop of ballooning costs from an original $1 million estimate to upwards of $1.7 million. The aging facility – built in 1969 – will soon be home to an additional Junior B hockey team, straining the building’s capacity to accommodate a growing range of user groups.
Renovations were originally slated for 2017, but lack of cost clarity forced councillors to put the brakes on the project until further details could be presented. On June 27, they learned that user fees at the arena have increased 10 per cent to help offset hydro costs, and staff feel that any additional increases must be kept to a minimum. Councillors were also informed that Jason Clarke, owner and coach of the Carleton Place Canadians, had put in a request to install a 24×60-foot portable to help ease dressing room crowding and handle the diverse needs of groups who’ve booked ice time.
The town’s chief administrative office Paul Knowles seemed frustrated as councillors repeatedly asked why a tender had not been put together for the renovations. Sensing reluctance on the part of council to proceed with the project, Knowles questioned why a tender should be put together “if you’re not going to build it.”
Councillor Theresa Fritz countered that “the consensus is to get started,” but she and others were concerned about nailing down final costs and figuring out how they would be covered.
“I don’t know any other project of this size that didn’t do a tender,” said Deputy Mayor Jerry Flynn. “Let’s send it to the guys who sharpen the pencils,” he continued, insisting that once all figures are in hand, a final decision can be made.
Councillor Brian Doucett agreed, noting “too often we avoid tenders. I don’t think it’s good business practice.” Doucett said the approximate $5,000 cost of preparing a tender would be a good investment that would provide council and taxpayers with a far better sense of the costs involved.
Coach Clarke also seemed frustrated about the need to go through a building permit process when all he’d like to see is the parking of a construction trailer which is already on wheels. He said with three teams juggling ice time between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 pm, it was a temporary solution to potential crowding problems during peak usage time.