The City of Victoria is finally able to apply for a federal grant that would cover nearly three quarters of the cost of the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre.
However, the expected timeline for awarding the Investing in Canada social infrastructure grant money by Infrastructure Canada continues to have municipal staff worried the City may lose its $6-million Gas Tax Fund provincial grant for the project.
City staff have been waiting months for applications to open up for the federal program, which could cover up to 72 per cent of the centre’s estimated $69.4-million cost. It was initially believed that the grants would be awarded by the end of 2018, but the City has learned that may not happen until late 2019.
This oversteps the deadline for the Gas Tax Fund, which the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) awarded to the city in February, under the caveat that all other project funds must be secured by March 31, 2019.
“That’s a critical component of the funding,” said Thomas Soulliere, City director of parks, recreation and facilities. “If we get an indication that the [Infrastructure Canada] decision will be made later, we’ll have to engage with UBCM and the province. If everyone involved would be willing to have a conversation, we can talk about options associated with the funding.”
Soulliere is hopeful the UBCM would be willing to negotiate and extend their deadline.
In the meantime, City planners and engineers continue to finalize the facility’s designs, addressing technical aspects and final architectural tweaks.
While Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria recently claimed costs for the project could rise up to $90 million, Soulliere was adamant that even with design and program adjustments, staff are conscious of staying within the City’s budget.
“What people experience is the highest priority [to our planning], and there’s many ways to accommodate that,” he said. “There are various designers looking at processes of how we can do that, and at opportunities to adjust to make sure we’re in line with budget expectations … There are meetings happening every week.”
In a previous interview with the News, however, Soulliere estimated that if delays to the project go past February 2019, escalated construction costs could see monthly increases of up to $500,000 per month.