Lacombe Council has finally reached a decision on the Barnett Arena/Kinsmen Aquatic Centre repairs, renovations and upgrades.
After taking their meeting in-camera for several minutes, council reopened chambers to the public on Sept. 8th and voted to proceed with the renovations to the leisure complex, following a modified version of Option 1.
Councillor Reuben Konnik made the motion to proceed with Option 1, an option that addressed only the code issues in the building and did not include additional expansion.
Konnik later amended his motion to modify Option 1 slightly, including some expansion to the building’s lobby as well as the swimming pool’s chemical and mechanical rooms.
Konnik has been very vocal with his disappointment regarding the cost of the necessary renovations to the building, saying in previous meetings that he doesn’t understand how addressing code issues, like adding a sprinkler system and improving fire exits, can cost upwards of $10 million and mentioned previously the City is going to build a police station for around $7 million.
As such, Konnik has been adamant that he would support only Option 1. He said that while he was disappointed the renovations would cost so much, he also understood they were necessary.
“Option 1 is all about bringing the building up to code and I think everyone in council agrees that’s important,” said Konnik after the meeting. “The thing I’ve struggled with since day one is the numbers involved.”
Konnik said that meeting code in the leisure complex was necessary to maintain and extend the life of the building, an important facility in Lacombe. He added that the high cost was also his reasoning for not supporting Option 2.
Mayor Steve Christie was the only member of council to vote against Konnik’s motion.
He said that he is pleased that at least something is being done to further the project, but is disappointed council has not opted to expand the facilities at Barnett Arenas and the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre.
“I’m elated that we are moving forward on that,” said Christie. “That we are moving forward on bringing the building up to code, that we are going to continue using that building, that we aren’t going to shut down pieces of it and not use pieces of it. But I think if we’re going to spend that amount of money, why not do it right? It’s worth the extra money.”
Christie added he is not opposed to a new regional facility, something that was suggested as an alternative to renovating the Barnett Arena/Kinsmen Aquatic Centre, but wants to use the existing facility to its fullest potential in the meantime.
“I couldn’t support shutting down portions of (the existing) building and then moving into another one.”
Councillor Wayne Rempel was one of the councillors who supported Option 2 for the renovations, but on Monday he voted in favour f Konnik’s motion.
Rempel said he has not changed his mind, but realized council as a whole would not support Option 2 and wanted to at least move forward with the project.
“We only had one thing to vote on, Option 1 to go ahead, or not to go ahead (at all),” said Rempel. “I don’t feel that for us to not do (any renovations) was the right thing to do.”
While council has made a decision regarding which option to proceed with for renovations, the renovations themselves have not been completely approved and nothing is set in stone.
Community Services Coordinator Brenda Vaughn said that the next step is to approach builders for costing of the project. Vaughn said while the City received fairly reliable numbers and drawings from its engineering consultant Stantec, more accurate information regarding cost and drawings is needed before the project can proceed.