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Strathcona Gardens renovation cost increases

SRD now looking to borrow $27 million, with no increase to taxes
The proposed renovation would extend the pool area into the parking lot at Strathcona Gardens. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

The price tag for the Strathcona Gardens pool renovation is going up, and the Strathcona Regional District is looking at increasing its share by $12 million.

The SRD is applying for the Strategic Priorities Fund grant to help cover some of the costs of the renovation. That grant provides up to $6 million for approved projects.

The pool renovation portion will cost $39 million, according to a June 9 staff report sent to the regional board table. Back in 2018, the regional district was anticipating its portion of the project would cost approximately $15 million and gave third reading to a bylaw anticipating that amount. However, it’s now looking at borrowing $27 million to cover its portion of the costs. That added to the $6.5 million in reserves and the anticipated $6 million from the SPF grant, adds up to just over $39 million.

The total $27 million debt will be incurred by the Strathcona Gardens service area, which includes Campbell River and Electoral Area D. However, there is no increase to taxes expected.

“We have resources in our requisition that we’ve allocated towards borrowing to cover the $27 million,” said chief administrative officer David Leitch during the meeting.

The change to the bylaw is just to show the board’s support for the project and to bolster the regional district’s grant application.

The facility, which was built in the 1970s, has been slated for a renovation since the mid-2010s. Since 2018, when the bylaw to borrow $15 million at that time passed third reading, the cost of the renovation has risen, with COVID-19, inflation and material costs all contributing factors.

In 2020, provincial grant funding was denied for a provincial grant that would have gone towards the renovation. That grant was to cover the then-$78 million price tag for the entire facility, whereas now the SRD is only looking at the pool.

While she said she would support anything that came from the Strathcona Gardens Commission, Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson questioned the wisdom of “borrow(ing) millions and millions of dollars for when the planet’s on fire.

“This is a pretty status quo, systems normal thing to be doing, and I find it increasingly difficult to be pretending that the world is normal when it’s not,” she said.

The bylaw amendment passed. If the regional district’s grant application is successful, the borrowing will still need to get public approval likely through an alternative approval process before it is finalized.

RELATED: Funding for Strathcona Gardens reno denied

SRD and unionized workers at impasse over Strathcona Gardens wages

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