Council approves Aquatic and Wellness Centre facility with a hefty price tag

In a defining moment for the Town of Saugeen Shores, Council has approved the construction and financing of a new Aquatic & Wellness Centre, alongside a reimagining of the Town’s Municipal Office and Council Chambers.  The decision means the Town will build the nearly $50 million project with no impact on the tax levy.

Discussions for a new Aquatic Centre/Pool began in 2008 and has been on-going for 15 years through four terms of Councils and, in 2016, consultants Monteith Brown, completed a Recreation Master Plan.

During the years, it was agreed that Saugeen Shores required a facility that would become a community hub providing recreational, health and fitness opportunities for all ages and abilities.  In addition, the existing pool facility at Saugeen District Senior School (SDSS), has been deemed as nearing its end-of-life with an annual cost of $396,000.

On December 15th, Saugeen Shores Council viewed a lengthy detailed presentation by Consultant (Salter Pilon and Lett) on the proposed Aquatic and Wellness Centre and Workplace 2.0 to be located in Port Elgin.

“I am very pleased with Council’s decision to build the Centre,” said Mayor Luke Charbonneau. “This facility – along with the Lamont Sports Park – is why we established the Legacy Fund in the first place.  It also shows how Development Charges are helping to build a better community as we grow. Our careful planning means we can now build two world-class recreational facilities that will generate enormous economic benefits, while serving our residents for decades.” 

The plan also includes a redesign of the Municipal Offices using the Workplace 2.0 concept.  This would create a new office space that is more modern, with a better use of space and technology to foster productivity and worker well-being.  The municipality hired a consultant for that planning through the 2021 Modernization Funding Program (Intake 3), a $100,000 provincial grant to develop modern workplaces.

“Our municipal offices were built in 1999, when our population was 20% smaller and static,” says Charbonneau. “Since then, we have grown significantly, and we expect to keep growing.  That means not only creating resources to serve the public better, but also changing the way we work.” 

The changes are expected to allow staff to work more productively to meet the residents’ needs for the next 20 years.  Reconfiguring the offices at the same time as the Aquatic & Wellness Centre build will increase economies of scale, as well as appropriate usage of the site. 

The Legacy Fund will have over $6 million immediately available for the project and is able to contribute yearly after that.  According to the financial plan, the Centre’s operating revenue will recover the project’s start-up costs by 2030.  As well, the Town’s Development Charges (DCs) by-law allows 50% of the project’s funding to come from DCs.  Finally, the Town is exploring several federal and provincial grants to help pay for the project. 

The location of the facility, previously approved, is east of the existing Municipal Administration offices and Plex Arena, which will also accommodate the potential need for a second ice pad in the future.

Council also formerly approved the main elements affecting square footage of the building that includes:

  • Aquatic Facility (8 lanes, 25 metre pool, leisure / therapeutic pool, pool viewing area)
  • Building Gross Up (Mechanical / filtration / storage, changerooms / washrooms / hallways / common space, offices / customer service area)
  • Walking Track (4 lanes, 125m track)
  • Wellness Centre (conditioning centre with weights and fitness equipment, gymnasium and storage, fitness studio, multi purpose rooms)

For larger view, Click on Image

Among the elements in the detailed design presented for Council consideration are:

  • 8 Lane, 25m Pool
  • Leisure Pool
  • Pool Viewing Area
  • Gymnasium
  • Multi-Purpose Room
  • Fitness Studio
  • Conditioning Centre
  • 4 Lane, 125m Walking Track
  • Offices
  • Change Rooms
  • Washrooms
  • Building Services
  • Customer Service Reception
  • Lobby and Connecting Corridors
  • Mechanical, Electrical, Storage

According to the Budget Report presented by Kristan Shrider, Director, Community Services and Operations, the rationale supporting the recommendation to approve the budget for construction of the facility includes:

  • Achieving the defined project values of Community Focused, Operational Savings, and Sustainability
  • Creates a community hub for indoor recreation in Saugeen Shores
  • Replace the existing Aquatic facility reaching end of life
  • Address insufficient Administration Office and Council Chambers requirements
  • Conditioning and Fitness Centre operations will create revenue opportunities to offset the operating deficit of a standalone pool
  • Alleviate the current strain for programming that requires Gymnasium space
  • Satisfy the increasing community demand for this type of recreation facility
  • Ability to provide membership and drop-in options to residents and visitors of Saugeen Shore
  • Integrating circulation and connection for all amenities and services within the Plex site
  • Ability to integrate operational efficiencies with resources and staff

A staff report is expected to be presented to Council on January 9, 2023, recommending that a contract be awarded for the position of Construction Management to a successful bidder.

The Construction Manager will work with town staff and Consultant on the final design aspect of the Aquatic and Wellness Centre. “This is extremely beneficial as the Construction Manager will bring construction knowledge and expertise early in the design phase to ease  construction and determine material availability,” said Shrider in her report.

The Construction Manager will also issue individual tender packages to sub-trades for various elements at a number of stages throughout construction and, working with town staff, will select sub-trades to complete all required work.

When it comes to cost, Council approved the budget of $49,948,500.

“$50Million is a large price tag,” said Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt. “How do we get it down to $30million and is it possible?  We talk about eight to 10 million in provincial and federal grants but we can’t bank on that.  There’s a lot of money in this community and I think the community is going to have to step up to the plate. I hope there are groups, organizations and individuals who say ‘we want that $50 million facility and we’re willing to help pay for it’.  We’re going to have to face the music and is there money available from the sale of surplus land.  i am concerned about the Legacy reserve.  We are pushing the limit at $50million. We are building this for the future. We are not a little town anymore but are becoming a big town … we need the pool community to step up to the plate, we need the Track club, unions and Bruce Power, suppliers and individuals for naming rights to come on board.  We need to turn over every stone possible.”

Councillor Dave Myette pointed out that, once Lamonth Sports Park is operational, the ball diamonds within the community would become surplus and redundant. “Look at Bierners Ball diamond for instance.  Part of it could be retained as a park but that it prime development property as is the one behind the high school.  Those could be sold off along with the Industrial Park by Lamont Sports Park.  So, those could be tangible assets that could be turned into funds and applied to this project.”

Mayor Charbonneau pointed out that there is no contingency in the project plan based on the sale of surplus land.  “This project is financed without the sale of any municipal assets at all.”

Michael Gallant of the consulting group said that he felt the project was a “… great candidate for grant funding … but the reality is, it’s a process and highly competitive.  Every municipality is looking for funding for major capital projects. The risk is that our schedule doesn’t have any flexibility to wait on this project tied to grants abut all funding and grant opportunities will be looked at.”

While there are grant opportunities available, few grants have come through in the past as Saugeen Shores is seen as an affluent community.  Applications are being made however to:

  • The Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program (GICB)
  • The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) / Green Municipal Fund
  • Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) / Canadian Community-Building Fund
  • Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) / Capital Grant Program
  • Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP)

Preliminary discussions have also started with Infrastructure Ontario to acquire a project loan. According to Jim Bundschuh, Director Corporate Services, “… due to the strength of the Town’s financial indicators, it is expected that Infrastructure Ontario would approve the project loan. There could however be room or a detriment when it comes to interest rates. There are a lot of factors at play.”  He also pointed out that $2.4 million from the tax base is transferred to the Legacy reserve annually.

In addition, Mayor Luke Charbonneau and staff have requested a delegation at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference in January to start funding discussions with other tiers of government.

“I get the sense that Council is ok to move ahead and approve the Aquatic and Wellness Centre,” said Mayor Charbonneau.  “Staff has heard your comments, so can we ask staff to come back within the funding window ($49,984,500) to see if elements raised can be added.  I am not at all comfortable with including fundraising in the base cost of this thing. Whatever we approve, I want us to know that it can be constructed and that fundraising can be a bonus and not a risk. I want us to know that we can pay for whatever we approve, one way or the other.”

Councillor Myette said that, “Opportunity only comes once but regret lasts forever … I think we should go all the way with this (project).”

Councillor John Divinski added that “… any place possible, please think local first … try to make it advantageous for our local suppliers and services.”

Councillor Bud Halpin said that he would like to all the green initiatives possible to be added.

There are also ‘Premium items’ as a contingency plan that would add $5,849,000 plus escalation percentages to the price tag bringing the total to $56,177,685.

It is anticipated that construction will begin during the summer of 2023 with complete facility construction slated for early 2025.

To view the complete proposal, including a simulated visual tour, of the proposed facility by Consultant (Salter Pilon and Lett), CLICK HERE

To watch the entire meeting, CLICK HERE

Screen capture December 15, 2022