Minden Hills is spending an additional $140,000 to extend its letter of intent for a new arena development.

Minden Hills council held a special meeting Dec. 19 and voted unanimously to approve the letter issued to McDonald Brothers Construction and Parking Architects limited, which will extend the timeline for the validation phase for the project up until Jan. 31. The additional funding being allotted is in addition to $140,000 already allotted for the validation phase up until this point.

“The forecasted time to finalize draft of the contract as amended by Supplementary General Conditions exceeded expectations,” director of community services Mark Coleman said in a staff report. “Therefore the contract will be presented along with the validation for report to council for consideration at the January 24, 2019 meeting of council.”

In his report, Coleman said the 2018 budget had allotted $300,000 for the validation phase of the project, meaning the expenditure still falls within that budget.

Coun. Bob Carter asked for clarification that council is only committing the additional $140,000 and nothing beyond that at this point.

“At this point today, right now, we’re not committed to anything but the $140,000?” Carter asked Minden Hills chief administrative officer Lorrie Blanchard said that was correct.

“I’ve asked the same questions,” she said.

At a Dec. 18 public meeting, the developers said the project would cost $12 million. The development entails the demolition of the arena portion of the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena, with a new arena being built at the same location, featuring an ice-rink, gymnasium and walking track.

Coun. Pam Sayne questioned the expenditure to extend the validation phase of the project after Blanchard noted the funding for it had been built up in reserves.

“This is a nice cushion, if you will, in case of issues we have to deal with flood mitigation, any kind of capital expenses that we might have,” Sayne said. “We’re shooting to put that money towards this verification stage, which we miss for other potential issues.”

“We started this potential project three years ago,” Mayor Brent Devolin retorted. “We have every year had this conversation at budget time. This is not new news.”

Sayne later questioned the amount of money the township was proposing to put towards the project, which had its details disclosed at a public meeting Dec. 18.

“For the first time at the public meeting, we were hearing the numbers of what this arena could cost us…I cannot figure out how our community can pay,” Sayne said.

Devolin responded those questions will be addressed in budget talks.

“Certainly, as we move to the end of validation and the budget discussions that will start in the beginning of January. We’ll go through the mechanics of all of that,” Devolin said. “That will be fleshed out.”

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