Minden arena project begins
By Chad Ingram
With the demolition of the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena commencing May 1, the Minden Hills arena renewal project is underway.
The $13-million project is being completed by the joint team of McDonald Brothers Construction and Parkin Architects Limited, who submitted the sole bid in response to a request for proposals from the Township of Minden Hills. The initial figure submitted in response to the RFP was $10 million. However, that figure jumped to $12 million after engineering assessments determined that the current arena would have to be demolished.
The arena was built in 1971 and engineering analysis determined that chloride salts that were used in the mortar during the building’s construction have been eroding the block of its foundation for years, making it unable to bear the weight that would come along with a rebuild of the current structure.
The price tag jumped further when the size of the gymnasium was increased after a number of Minden Hills residents said following a public meeting in December that the proposed gymnasium was too small. There has also been criticism from some residents that, for its price tag, the facility contains no aquatic component. The project will include a new arena with a 200-foot rink and six change rooms as well as new office space for township staff, a new gymnasium, and renovations to the Minden Hills Community Centre, to which the arena is attached.
The Township of Minden Hills will waive all building permit fees and landfill tipping fees for the project, something not all members of council agreed with, at an April 25 council meeting.
As a staff report from bylaw officer Colin McKnight indicated, “Building permit and landfill tipping fees were noted as $0.00 in the validation report provided to council on Feb. 14, 2019 as staff advised the contractor that a report to council seeking approval to waive the fees was forthcoming.”
The fees total more than $100,000.
While waiving such fees for its projects has been a common practice for the township, Councillor Bob Carter said he thought the waiver meant disguising some of the project’s true costs.
“It is an arena expense,” Carter said during the April 25 council meeting.
Chief administrative officer and treasurer Lorrie Blanchard said that while that was true, were the township not to waive the fees, it would increase the overall expense of the project.
“It’s all internal, so it’s not cash is flowing one way or the other,” Blanchard said.
Carter said he’d just like to see the true costs of the arena project all in one place.
“I’d like to see what the cost is, and not have bits and pieces of it spread throughout the budget,” he said.
Councillor Pam Sayne agreed with Carter.
“To be clear and to be transparent, I think it’s a good way to show what the arena’s actually costing,” Sayne said.
In February, Carter, Sayne and Councillor Jennifer Hughey voted against proceeding with the project, with Carter reiterating since he was elected in the fall that he had concerns with awarding a project with such a large price tag to a lone bidder.
“I’m fine with the way it is now, because we’ve done it so many times in the past,” said Councillor Jean Neville, indicating the township did the same thing during the construction of the Highway 35 fire hall, for instance, or with the waiver of landfill tipping fees for flood-damaged building materials. “Anything to do with the municipality, that’s the way we’ve always handled it.”
Ultimately, the vote on the waiver of the fees was divided along the same lines as proceeding with the project itself, with Carter, Sayne and Hughey opposed, and Neville, Councillor Ron Nesbitt, Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell and Mayor Brent Devolin in favour.
Minden Hills has applied for a loan of up to $12.5 million from Infrastructure Ontario to cover the bulk of the project’s costs, with a stipulation that loan advances in excess of $11.9 million come back to the council table for approval.
The project is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2020, in time for the 2020/21 ice season.