Council pushes back on Minden Arena costs
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Feb. 7, 2019|
Minden Hills councillors have rejected paying a $71,000 overspend on the validation phase of the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena project. The ‘nay’ votes were unanimous in a recorded vote at a special council meeting held Jan. 31. Director of Community Services Mark Coleman was asking council to endorse the extra money, saying the township’s partners, McDonald Brothers Construction (MBC) and architect, Parkin, had billed additional costs.
On Dec. 13, council authorized up to $280,000 in support of validation costs. They did so by agreeing to an additional $140,000 at that time. At last week’s meeting, Coleman asked for even more money for the validation phase- $323,331.97, up from $252,400, saying the revised figures “are primarily a result of increased staff time and design and engineering work related to roof investigations and challenges to connect the new arena building to the Community Hall.” He noted in his report that the 2018 budget provided for $300,000 in funding from reserves to support design and engineering costs in 2018 and 2019.
Councillor Bob Carter was the first to jump on the $71K increase. He said that at that December meeting council endorsed an additional $140K, but that had now blown out to $211K or about a 50 per cent overage in about six weeks.
“How does that happen?”
MBC told council they thought they were done the validation phase and then council held a public meeting in December that resulted in the need for more work. For example, they said there was public feedback that the gym had to be enlarged. They added they continued with structural evaluation of the facility. MBC was represented by Paul McDonald and Patrick Brosseau, and Parkin by Mario Pistone and Laura Hann.
Carter said he understood Coleman, MBC and Parkin’s explanation of the overspend but said council did not approve it. He said it’s one thing to have work done that’s necessary and another thing for the cost to be approved. He said there should have been a new approval before the money was spent.
CAO and treasurer Lorrie Blanchard replied that management is very thorough in bringing information to council. She added, “It [the additional money] needed to be spent to get us where we are right now. That is my humble opinion.”
Councillor Jennifer Hughey said the $71K overspend had eroded her level of confidence and increased her uncertainty about MBC and Parkin Architects. “This is important to everyone. We expect maybe a higher level of information relayed.” She said for her, the question is not if or when the arena is refurbished but “how this process is done.”
Mayor Brent Devolin said the increase had come as a surprise, and was perplexing, and he would have liked to have had advance knowledge.
Councillor Pam Sayne thanked MBC and Parkin for its presentation and said it’s council that has to discuss the overall project further. At an estimated price tag of $12.5 million, she said it’s “way beyond the pay scale of people in this community.” She added that she’s not even sure the final drawings represent what the public wants. “We don’t have an opportunity to do nothing. We have to do something but I don’t want to act out of fear … I want to make sure we have this discussion in our community.”
But Councillor Ron Nesbitt said the second arena renewal task force had held about 25 meetings, averaging five to six hours long, so the project is “not something we just took lightly.”
Devolin, who thinks there will be a vote on the project Feb. 14, told councillors, “You have two weeks. Have your own look. Draw your own conclusions.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.