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Extra costs for Saanich recreation centre retrofits to be spread over four years

Even after shaving costs, the eight projects to reduce energy costs and significantly cut greenhouse-gas emissions were $6.5 million over-budget
George R. Pearkes Community Recreation Centre. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The District of Saanich will be looking for a bit of wiggle room in its next four budgets to complete climate-friendly retrofits of its recreation centres.

Facing a $6.5-million shortfall in the total budget for eight projects that would reduce energy costs and significantly cut greenhouse-gas emissions, council voted this week to increase funding for the projects in budget discussions.

The money would come from the community facilities core capital budget and the climate action reserve fund.

Mayor Dean Murdock said district staff have already shaved a total of about $5 million from the two largest projects – the $4-million retrofit of G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre and the $5.33-million retrofit of Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.

At G.R. Pearkes, the savings come from removing a heat-recovery system from the ice plant while keeping heat recovery in the ventilation system. The net result is similar greenhouse gas savings, but higher electricity consumption.

At Cedar Hill, the plan now calls for removing the airlock vestibule and accessibility building-entrance upgrades and changes to the heating plans for the tennis and squash courts.

It also means heat pumps the district had hoped to install at Cedar Hill will have to wait.

“We’ll be switching to electric, but it won’t be heat pumps in the entire facility,” said Murdock. “We’re still converting to electric, which means getting away from natural gas to reduce emissions, but we’re not going to achieve the same level of energy savings that we would have with complete heat-pump conversion.”

Even with the cutbacks, there is still a funding shortfall, however.

The district has $5.3 million in grant money from senior governments for the retrofits at G.R. Pearkes and Cedar Hill, but due to rising construction costs, the grants won’t cover the work.

Addressing the $6.56-million shortfall would be done over four years, which would spread a 0.42 per cent tax increase over that period.

The other projects on the list include Saanich Commonwealth Place, and small projects at Les Passmore Seniors Activity Centre, Cedar Hill Golf Course and the district’s annex building on Vernon Avenue.

Earlier this year, Saanich was anticipating an eight per cent increase in property taxes in 2024, but Murdock says things have improved and he believes the number will be lower than that.

Council expects to see the full budget picture in January, when a draft budget is produced.

Next week, the Saanich police provisional budget is expected to come to council for discussion.

Murdock, the chair of the police board, said a funding increase has requested for the police in 2024 to cover the cost of new patrol officers and other items.