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Morinville recreation facility nears completion despite smaller contribution than expected from county

Morinville recreation facility nears completion
WATCH ABOVE: Morinville will cut the ribbon on its new rec centre in the spring but as Quinn Ohler reports, funding for the project hasn't come from where the town planned.

By the spring of 2019, the new Morinville recreation facility is expected to be open for business, with a new field house, arena and track — but finding funding for the project has proved difficult.

“We had to ensure that the Town of Morinville could sustain it fiscally on its own,”said Mayor Barry Turner.

Phase 1 is a $30.5-million project. The town took out a $22-million debenture to fund construction, with hopes that grants and sponsorship would help to pay off the debt.

“We really had to ensure it was fiscally responsible and fiscally sustainable,” Turner said. “We ensured we could afford this project without receiving any additional funding.”

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A committee, including the mayor and members of the community, has been established to seek out sponsorship for the new facility and the mayor said announcements on future partnerships are expected soon.

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Funding from Sturgeon County was also significantly less than what the town asked for. Morinville made an ask for $4 million, however, after consultation with residents, the county instead provided $500,000. The county also provided another grant worth $80,604.40 and “shared utility servicing.” Alanna Hnatiw, the mayor of Sturgeon County, said that brings the county’s contribution “closer to the $1-million mark.”

READ MORE: Regional mayors respond to suggestion municipalities help cover Edmonton recreational facility costs

“Our residents sent us a very clear message about their low level of support for the facility in its current form,” Hnatiw said in a statement to Global News. “Sturgeon County didn’t have a lot of input into the rec centre’s planning process; there were lost opportunities for collaboration on the front end of the project.”

Hnatiw said the contribution was fair, based on the level of input the county had in the project.

“Going forward, we can set a new level of standard for what communication and collaboration looks like,” Hnatiw said. “Mayor Turner and I are committed to work together and we have that expectation of our administrations as well.”

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The town will be using its Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding from the Alberta government and the federal gas tax rebate to pay down the loan.

“The debentures will be covered by the MSI program and the federal tax rebate. so the capital impact to residents is actually zero,” Turner said.

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The town has also applied for the Investing in Canada’s Infrastructure Plan grant program. Officials expect a response later this month.

READ MORE: Alberta government getting closer to finishing municipal funding program

Where taxpayers will be impacted is through operational costs, which are expected to be $268,000 more than last year.

“We’ve done a lot of work to ensure this project is at minimum impact to taxpayers,” Turner said.

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The town’s current facility, Ray McDonald Arena, was originally an air hangar that was retrofitted in the 1950s to be an ice rink. Turner said it has reached the end of its life cycle.

The Ray McDonald Arena in Morinville will be torn down after this winter season.
The Ray McDonald Arena in Morinville will be torn down after this winter season. Global News

“We can’t really keep it open past this spring,” Turner said. “That’s what kick-started this process.

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“It’s what this community needs to move forward,” he said. “I think the community is going to love this facility the second they walk in.”

Phase 1 of the project is expected to be completed May 2019.

View photos in the gallery below:

Morinville's Mayor get's a brief tour of the new facility.
Morinville's Mayor get's a brief tour of the new facility.
A look inside the field house of the new Morinville Rec Centre
A look inside the field house of the new Morinville Rec Centre
Work is underway in what will become the ice rink in the new Morinville Rec Centre
Work is underway in what will become the ice rink in the new Morinville Rec Centre