Council puts brakes on arena upgrades

Posted on: June 7, 2017

Matthew Behrens

Following a rigorous June 6 discussion at Carleton Place town council’s physical environment committee that weighed the need to replace aging arena change rooms with the importance of minding the public purse, councillors voted to bring the matter forward for future discussion.

The decision came in reaction to news that an original $1 million estimate to replace the circa 1969 change rooms had ballooned to $1.5 million. While the 2017 budget had originally set aside $1 million for the upgrades, those figures were prepared before architectural drawings had been submitted.

Town staff reported that a slight decline in arena usage, along with increased hydro costs, prevented paying for the additional half million in projected costs out of the arena’s budget. Instead, they predicted that reserve monies and a 1.5% tax hike could be required to cover the difference, which immediately raised red flags around the council table.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” said Councillor Theresa Fritz. “Everyone agrees that the work is needed and wanted,” but she added that asking the public to respond to the possibility of a tax hike at a June 20 committee meeting was not providing enough notice. “This is a very serious topic.”

Councillors also learned that the renovations had not been put out for tender, and discussed the need for a competitive bidding process that might help pare down the price as well.
Deputy Mayor Jerry Flynn asked Chief Administrative Office Paul Knowles the basis for the original project cost.

“It was based on a sketch with no details,” Knowles replied. “That’s the price that we got from a contractor,” and as more details emerged, the costs began to climb.

“If it’s based on square foot, how could we go so wrong? If it’s $150 per square foot, it’s $150 per square foot, whether it’s a drawing, a plan, or whatever,” Flynn said.

Councillor Doug Black summarized fellow councillors’ sentiments when he concluded that the $1.5 million figure is a “game changer for us, and we need more qualified input, more detail, and analysis, and a tender.”