Council votes down motion to cancel pursuit of Event Centre design, approves $700,000 in additional funding

Herald file photo

Prince Albert City Council approved a motion to increase the design budget on the new Events Centre by $700,000 at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

This came after Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp moved that the City cancel pursuit of the Event Centre design, which was seconded by Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller.

Lennox-Zepp objected because this was only the design phase and there had been no public consultation.

“We have not yet had any meaningful public consultation to indicate if the public wants to pay these dollars to pursue this item,” she said.

“We have to ask the public how they want their money spent,” she added. “We do that first before we spend an outrageous sum of money for a design that I believe the majority of the public do not want.

The motion was defeated with Lennox-Zepp, Miller and Ward 3 Counc. Tony Head voting in favour.

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody made the original motion to increase the design budget by $700,000, and credit development levies generated from the Yard District towards the civic facilities reserve.

Increased architectural fees for the event centre design will be funded from that reserve. The new estimated cost of project, including applicable taxes, is $3,274,360.35.

Head sought clarification about the contract and why it needed to be increased.

Capital Works Manager Nykol Miller explained that the contract was standard and since it was initially drawn, up prices have increased.

“Since the time when we were in negotiations with the contractor, we have gone through COVID 19 and the major inflations of the economy, which is all attributed to the current cost that we’re dealing with today,” Miller explained.

She added that this is an estimated cost, and the final cost might rise again when it goes out to tender.

According to the report the increased pricing was due to a combination of contributing factors. The list includes adding 50 per cent of the NW parking lot to the design scope, the COVID-19 pandemic, the high inflation rates that have been seen across all industries, and a base number that was not accurate.

Construction inflation in Canada averaged 4.1 per cent in 2020, 20.5 per cent in 2021 and 18.7 per cent in 2022. Miller said this all contributed to an increased project cost.

The City, received the Class A Estimate in December of 2022 indicating the total project cost at $99,501,700. This number spurred a long detailed dialogue between the City and the Architect team on how the Architect fees should be applied to reflect the Class A Estimate that would be defendable and fair to both parties.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick said he supports all phases of the project and campaigned in 2020 on support for the project and was the target of a campaign because of that support. He said he would continue to support all phases of the project.

“I don’t want to have half the project done and then we abandon it and not continue on,” Ogrodnick said.

Ogrodnick said residents who didn’t support the project could vote for his opponent in the next municipal election. Orgodnick was re-elected with 77 per cent of the vote in his ward. He said that was enough to show him residents wanted a new event centre.

“That told me that they’re endorsing my stand on that and other issues,” he said. “The mayor got re-elected, (and) he was in favor of it. The one councilor that was opposed to it and campaigned against it was defeated.”
Ogrodnick said he supports using city funds on the project, but would like to see the federal and provincial governments contribute too. However, he said they need a plan in place before they can get funding.

“If we don’t figure out the plan, then how can we apply for grants from other levels of government? We can’t,” Ogrodnick said.

Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards also supported the motion. Edwards said he didn’t like the additional fees, but they are part of the contract.

“I certainly don’t look like anybody else in the room paying $700,000 extra dollars. That’s not something that we like. It’s not a piece of the contract that I like. I think it’s a terrible part of the contract that I wish we didn’t have to have, but unfortunately, it is there it is part of the contract,” he said.

Edwards added that when he campaigned in 2016 there was discussion around a new rink for the Raiders. He argued that the project would benefit more than just the Raiders.

“What an event center does is it brings a community communities together. Nothing more brings community together then a Raider games. All the great people that attend have awesome time,” Edwards said.

He added that an event centre will bring in concerts, curling and other events to attract guests to Prince Albert.

“We build the community together and this helps,” he said. “This will help. Our city has to move forward with positive things like this. It can’t always be about crime or homelessness or poverty. Our city is more than that, way more.

“I think the funding model will be there for us and I going to support a motion,” he added.

Dionne said that a Master Plan is not a final document and he would rather see it called a guide because it’s done over five years, and a lot can change during that time.

Dionne also said the recent SHA Roadmap tour was excited by things like the Alfred Jenkins Field House and the Yard District. Dionne said that he has been running on a new arena for the Raiders since he was first elected.

Lennox-Zepp said she wasn’t convinced the plan received proper public scrutiny.

“I firmly stand by the concern that these are funds that have not yet been in public consultation,” she said.

Lennox -Zepp asked what levels of government are contributing funds and the City Manager said that they are still working on the funding model and there was no information available at this time.

The second motion passed with Lennox-Zepp, Head and Miller opposed.