Will sticker shock dampen the enthusiasm for a community/aquatic centre?


city_scope_logo-cmykThere is no doubt plenty of support in the city for a community and aquatic centre. To the extent, if you add all the bells and whistles sought by the public, the projected cost would be well more than the estimated $25 million just for an aquatic centre.
This is all contained in a report to council for Monday’s (Dec. 20) meeting from the technical committee struck to “create a physical concept plan and determine the location for a new community and aquatic centre in order to be prepared for future funding opportunities by December 2021.”
To prepare its report, the committee looked at the Bostwick Community Centre, East Lions Community Centre, Komoka Wellness Centre, South London Community Pool and the Stoney Creek Community Centre.

All of these facilities had numerous features in common including a 25-metre, six-lane lap pool; therapy/leisure pool; gymnasium; a library branch; walking track; and multi-purpose/community/activity space.
At the Bostwick Community Centre (total cost $55 million) the YMCA contributed $9 million and pays the majority of operating costs.
The Komoka Wellness Centre (total cost $18 million in 2011) did not receive financial support toward construction costs from the YMCA but it does pay a portion of operating costs.
At the Stoney Creek Community Centre (total cost $21 million in 2010), the YMCA contributed $8 million and, except for the library, it is entirely operated by that organization.
Last month, the committee undertook a survey that generated 1,979 responses.

Community and acquatic centre survey questionThe vast majority of respondents (1,339) indicated they travel to other municipalities to access aquatic facilities.
The top five requested amenities for a city facility were: a lap pool and therapeutic pool; walking track (one currently exists at the Joe Thornton Community Centre); fitness area; a community common area; and library branch.
The estimated size of the facility is 4,000 square metres and would require an approximately six-acre parcel of land.
This raises the thorny issue of where to locate such a centre.
The committee’s report notes, “Based on the stated inclusionary and exclusionary criteria, there were 8 potential properties that were technically large enough and met all the evaluation criteria.
“Only 5 of these sites had enough space for a new facility, i.e., Optimist Park, Central High School (no doubt Central Elgin Collegiate Institute), Fanshawe College and the ball diamonds on Sauve Park.
However, Fanshawe College and the ball diamonds are unsuitable options due to space constraints or the required removal of key site features.

“Pending council approval, the immediate next step is the retention of a consultant to determine a Class C cost estimate for a Community and Aquatic Centre.”

To further complicate site location, the city’s Library Services Department would like a second library located a minimum of four kilometres away from the main branch.
As per the report, “This parameter would put a second library location at the current city boundaries.”
Now the city owns a parcel of land adjacent to the northside fire station but that does not meet the committee parameter of being 1,200 metres distance from high schools.
So, paying for the facility is a critical consideration but finding a location that fulfills even a majority of the parameters is a whole different ballgame.
As to costs, construction including parking lots is pegged at $35 million.
Pool infrastructure is estimated at $650 per square foot and $350 per square foot for multipurpose rooms and fitness areas.
The annual operating costs are estimated at $1.1 million.
As for the next steps, the report points out, “With the understanding that the city limits, funding opportunities and future partnerships with neighbouring municipalities within the next 2-3 years, the information presented could change.
“Pending council approval, the immediate next step is the retention of a consultant to determine a Class C cost estimate for a Community and Aquatic Centre.”
With all that in mind, it is to be hoped the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario has deep pockets to assist once again financially.

“would you be in favour of the city moving ahead with this project if funding opportunities are not available – just using municipal funding?”

Not to mention generous support from higher levels of government.
From the survey, it is interesting to note more than a third (768) of respondents did not use either Jaycees or the St. Thomas YMCA pool.
A total of 309 respondents said they travelled to London for aquatic facility needs.
Let’s zero in on Questions 7 and 8.
The first notes the facility may cost $25 million but could go higher, so “would you be in favour of the city moving ahead with this project only” – and that is the key consideration – “when external municipal funding opportunities become available?”
The vast majority (1,664) were in favour of holding off until other funding is available and city ratepayers are not shouldering a high percentage of the costs.
Question 8 then asks, understanding the cost implications, “would you be in favour of the city moving ahead with this project if funding opportunities are not available – just using municipal funding?”
Again, the overwhelming majority (1,542) replied ‘yes.’
Seems to be a serious disconnect between the two.
Let’s not lose sight of what construction costs will look like two or three years down the road.
We’ve had a taste of that with the new downtown childcare centre.

HOPE FOR TINY HOPE PROJECT LIES WITH FINANCE DIRECTOR

Still on the matter of funding requests, as mentioned in this corner last week, Project Tiny Hope is requesting $3 million from the city and to fully waive developmental charges so that the project can proceed next year.
City council this past Monday unanimously approved moving the request along to the treasury department, but several members responded what exactly does that mean and what is the next step?
City manager Wendell Graves handled that one.

“The recipe we have used in the past is to try and gain housing units by non-tax-based events and if there is going to be any contribution we have to look at that.”

“I think you remember earlier in the year when this group was before us to talk about their exciting project on Kains Street.
“And they gave us an overview on what that project meant. They, at that time, did not know what their financial ask might be for this.
“It really needs to come back to administration for a full analysis. We will sit down with the group and take a look at their financial analysis and come back with some recommendations.
“As you know there are a number of affordable and supportive housing projects in the mix . . . and what the opportunities are for each of the projects.”
Graves noted a full report will be presented to council shortly to outline “if the city can be involved in this project.”
He continued, “The recipe we have used in the past is to try and gain housing units by non-tax-based events and if there is going to be any contribution we have to look at that.”
To help finance the community and social services hub at 230 Talbot Street, the city sold off a portion of its existing housing stock, thus easing the financial burden on ratepayers.

Related posts:

Addressing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues . . . how do we collectively get on the same page?

Tiny homes hold a big vision for a more vibrant St. Thomas

CANNIBALISM IN ST. THOMAS?

Sorry largemouth Bass and Brown Bullhead, looks like you might be right back on the hook next summer if you go for the bait.
You are on your own after city council this past Monday (Dec. 13) nixed spending $13,000 on a Fish Community Assessment at Lake Margaret.
Coun. Gary Clarke summed it up succinctly.
Lake Margaret boat launch proposed“I can’t agree with spending money on a community assessment. We had a report done just two years ago and I’m not sure what new information we would get and, if we got new information, how we would interpret it.
“To my knowledge, we didn’t act on the recommendations of the previous study. So you could kind of write the report in three ways right now.
“You could say well when the report is done in September the fishing is good, it’s maintained.
“Well, there were a number of recommendations (in the 2018 study) that said it wasn’t in good shape two years ago and we needed to do some things.

“The lack of baitfish within Lake Margaret may be a limiting factor for the existing fish population and it is anticipated that cannibalism among species is present. The rate of cannibalism increases in nutritionally poor environments as individuals turn to other conspecific individuals as a food source limiting reproduction success.”

“Or, if there are less fish and you’re blaming it on the kids fishing, is it that or is it again because we didn’t act on the recommendations we needed to sustain it?
“So, I don’t think we’re going to get any new information that we can act on that we didn’t already know from the previous study.
“We really need to take a look at that study, work on some of those recommendations and see if that does help the fish population.”
Not sure if the 2018 study was widely circulated, however, it is an interesting read.
It was prepared by Natural Resource Solutions, Inc., out of Waterloo and referenced cannibalism in the lake.
“The lack of baitfish within Lake Margaret may be a limiting factor for the existing fish population and it is anticipated that cannibalism among species is present.
“The rate of cannibalism increases in nutritionally poor environments as individuals turn to other conspecific individuals as a food source limiting reproduction success.”
The assessment warned, “The presence of cannibalism can decrease the expected survival rate of the whole population.”

“There are several potential improvements that could be made to Lake Margaret to increase the available habitat and fish population if desired.”

It noted, “Lake Margaret does not have persistent upstream and downstream connectivity and this limits the ability for cyprinids to naturally colonize the lake.
“Secondly, there is not enough aquatic vegetation to support any cyprinid populations that are artificially released into the system. The minimal connectivity, habitat, and aquatic vegetation could also be detrimental to any new fish species looking to establish themselves within Lake Margaret, not exclusively cyprinids.”
For the uninitiated, and I include myself, cyprinids are a family of freshwater fish, commonly called the carp or minnow family. It includes the carps, the true minnows and relatives like the barbs and barbels.
The Fish Habitat Assessment conducted on October 29, 2018, found “limited refuge and spawning habitat for fish within Lake Margaret.”
And, there is possible new life for some of those discarded Christmas trees next year, according to the assessment.
“There are several potential improvements that could be made to Lake Margaret to increase the available habitat and fish population, if desired. The addition of wetland plants paired with natural habitat improvements such as the addition of refuge structures (e.g. sunken Christmas trees, woody debris etc.) would significantly increase available habitat and reduce restrictions of juvenile fish populations.”
The city is creating a buffer zone around the water but will it follow other recommendations from the 2018 assessment to further benefit the existing fish population?

Related posts:

Tiny homes hold a big vision for a more vibrant St. Thomas

The Lake Margaret debate: Coun. Steve Peters argues for ‘healthy living and healthy lifestyle for the environment’

OUR CHRISTMAS WISH TO YOU

At this time last year we posted our Christmas greeting and closed it off with the following, “And the knowledge we may be nearing the end of this COVID-19 marathon.”
Well, like that nagging toothache and the hard-to-peg-down squeak somewhere in the car, what’s another Christmas without the coronavirus?
Despite the myriad restrictions being re-introduced a week out from that very special day, let’s dwell on the true meaning.

students-having-a-snowball-fighton-the-front-lawn-of-alma-college

Photo courtesy Elgin County Archives

As has been the custom for some time now, we offer these last-minute – and most appropriate in what has been a quite unusual and trying year – gift suggestions to distribute in the appropriate fashion.
To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
And, to all faithful City Scope readers, in particular, those with birthdays at this time of year – when your special day too often is lost in the hustle and bustle that is the lead-up to the day itself – may this Christmas bring you peace, health and happiness.
City Scope will not publish Christmas Day with a planned return on Boxing Day.

THE ECHO CHAMBER

On last week’s item on homelessness, mental health and addiction, Dee Wells writes city council is just not working hard enough.

“City council’s lip service is not working hard at anything. If you truly want to make a difference, a good place to start would be to give tangible support to those volunteers and programs that are out there every day making a difference.
“This council is forever saying they are ‘working hard,’ yet the more serious problems continue to grow.”

On the Tiny Hope Project, Eric Jones seems uncertain as to the validity of the tiny homes.

“The planned apartment makes more sense than the tiny homes, so I think eventually that will be constructed.”

Susan Gerry commented on several items from last week.

“Speaking of tiny homes… who will be the landlord?”

Susan can also relate to having to rely on the city’s transit system.

“The Bane of my existence!
“I am blessed with where I live and am in a fairly easy walk to 2 buses, giving me a 30-minute bus instead of 60.
“BUT, it is no fun to be waiting for 60 minutes because you could not run fast enough from ER to catch the blessed thing!
“I am told there are new stops on Talbot. I reached out to the city customer helpline to find out the changes but got no reply and it seems to me that the route map has not been updated.
“Places to buy tickets is not up to date either. I challenge City Council to ride the buses on all routes to determine the next road work.
“If you are in pain, you will feel every fricken bump and jostle. The ride is as smooth as an ambulance in desperate need of shock absorbers and the clattering will make you deaf.
“But, at least we have buses.”

And Susan found time to comment on gentrification.

“St. Thomas has a disproportionate number of low income, marginalized, financially hard-pressed residents.
“If one is not aware of their rights as a renter, it is even worse. “Yes, I agree with Steve Peters, developers want to see a nice big return on their investment. With a near-zero vacancy rate in the city, it is near impossible to rent if you are on ODSP or CPP.
“Tiny homes is encouraging, but to be eligible it may affect how much money you get for ODSP. If it is geared-to-income rent, ODSP will lop off a chunk of the cheque.
“Sigh.
“And with low vacancy available, landlords can easily pick and choose who wins the rental.”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

Visit us on Facebook
And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

city_scope_logo-cmyk

One thought on “Will sticker shock dampen the enthusiasm for a community/aquatic centre?

  1. The % of people not using available pools in the city is due to cost of memberships or single use entry. People are basically saying they would use a lap pool if it was free of use – which I doubt is how such a facility would be run.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s