Pool, firehall replacements going to referendum

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Prince George residents will cast a ballot this fall.

There won’t be any political names on the ballot though. Instead, the electorate will be asked to give its blessing, or not, to two projects that will, combined, require the city to borrow up to $50 million.

Mayor Lyn Hall
Mayor Lyn Hall

City council Monday approved asking taxpayers’ permission, via referendum, to approve borrowing up to $35 million to replace the Four Seasons Leisure Pool. The plan is to build a new pool where the Days Inn currently sits, literally across the street from the existing pool.

A second referendum question will ask whether residents support the city borrowing up to $15 million to replace the main downtown firehall with a new building on Massey Drive next to the YMCA.

Both buildings, according to reports given to council, are outdated and, failing replacement, in need of major, and costly, repairs. Bringing the pool up to standards would cost $10 million, council was told.

The city will be making presentations to community groups prior to the referendum in an attempt to ensure the public gets the information it needs prior to the referendum.

“I’m looking forward to getting it out in the public and it will give the citizens of Prince George the opportunity to voice their opinion,” said Mayor Lyn Hall.

Coun. Frank Everitt the decision to relocate the Four Seasons Pool came after input from the community on several different options, on being scrapping the Four Seasons Pool and putting more money into the Aquatic Centre.

“The citizens have said the city needs two pools,” said Coun. Frank Everitt. “The location is where people can get to it easily … I think the timing is right for it. When you get something as old as the Four Seasons Pool, can’t live without it and can’t leave it alone.”

Coun. Terri McConnachie said council has been talking for some time about these two projects.

“I really do encourage people to get engaged,” she said, adding residents should make sure they get their questions answered.

Coun. Albert Koehler, who is always leery of anything that will increase taxes, said the time has come for the firehall replacement.

“The interior is not what it should be at all,” Koehler said of the firehall. “I had a tour and that tour changed my mind. Obviously it has to be done.”

City manager Kathleen Soltis should one or both projects fail in the referendum, staff will come back to council to seek direction on how to proceed.

FOUR SEASONS POOL

Based on a budget of $35 million, a facility with a gross floor qarea of 3,971 m2 (42,743 Sq. Ft.) is achievable on the preferred site. The facility will address the majority of the community’s aquatic needs as identified within the 2016 Aquatic Needs Assessment Report. The facility will include:

  • A design with accessibility at the forefront;
  • A building that engages the street front and district;
  • A pool that is 25 Meters in length and six lanes wide;
  • A therapy/toddler pool that is 25 Meters in length and four lanes wide;
  • A leisure pool with a wading zone (with a beach entry) and deep zone.

It will include play features and a slide;

  • Large change rooms (including a modern universal change room);
  • A spa, sauna and steam room; and
  • Space for public gatherings and classroom instruction

The budget of $35 million includes construction costs, professional fees, change order contingency, escalation and furniture/fixtures/equipment. It does not include the cost of acquiring and preparing the preferred site, estimated at about $6 million, or demolition of the existing Four Seasons site.

FIREHALL

The primary objective for the Fire Hall No. 1 replacement project is to build a facility that has a post disaster rating and houses the Emergency Operations Centre, Fire Operations Communications Centre and expands and improves our emergency response (fire and rescue), according to the report going before council.

At the Massey Drive location, Fire Hall No. 1’s eight-minute response area would expand by about 50 per cent compared to its current location.

Based on a budget of $15 million, a facility with a gross floor area of 2,000 m2 (21,528 Sq. Ft.) is achievable on Massey Drive. The facility will address the community’s requirements as identified in the Prince George Fire Rescue Standards of Cover Report and the Condition and Functionality Assessment.

The facility will include:

  • A design with post recovery rating at the forefront;
  • A facility that minimizes the impact to Carrie Jane Gray Park;
  • A functional Emergency Operations Centre;
  • A well designed Fire Operations Communications Centre;
  • A facility that accommodates modern firefighting equipment; and
  • A facility that has the flexibility to accommodate changing staff demographics.

The budget of $15 million includes construction costs, professional fees, change order contingency, escalation, Massey Drive improvements and furniture/fixtures/equipment. There is no land acquisition cost associated with this project.