Victoria might not need to borrow for Crystal Pool

A referendum to borrow up to $69.4 million to replace Crystal Pool might not be needed if Victoria can tap into senior government grant programs.

“While external borrowing remains a potential part of the overall funding strategy, it may be possible to eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of external borrowing required,” city staff said in a report to council.

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Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, recreation and facilities, said Thursday a referendum, that was being considered for this fall, is a requirement only if the city has to borrow funds.

He told councillors that options could include funding from the federal government’s Investing in Canada Plan. The current phase of that plan has committed $21.9 billion in new investments over 11 years to support social infrastructure.

He said it will likely be early in the new year before the city gets any indication of whether it is successful in grant applications.

The city has already applied for $6 million in gas-tax funding for the pool replacement project through the Capital Infrastructure Projects fund administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“We’ve also identified a couple of other opportunities through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities,” Soulliere said.

However, delays could significantly affect the cost of the project. Cost estimations indicate the price for the project, beginning in 2018, could increase six to eight per cent, or $385,000 to $475,000 per month.

Soulliere said it would take about three months to plan and implement a referendum should it prove necessary.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the federal government has to negotiate bilateral funding agreements with each of the provinces — something that hopefully will be completed by late fall.

After that, the normal procedure is for the province to put out a call for projects and forward approved projects to the federal government.

Councillors voted in February to replace the 45-year old Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre, using $10 million from reserves and borrowing the balance.

Staff had presented councillors with three options:

• Retrofit the existing facility at an estimated cost of $40.9 million.

• Retrofit and expand for $57.1 million.

• Build new at $69.4 million.

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