Council votes to accept $12.9M in federal funding for new pool

Yellowknife's Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.
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Yellowknife councillors voted unanimously Monday to accept $12.9 million in federal infrastructure funding that will allow the city to build a new swimming pool.

The Ruth Inch Memorial Pool is expected to reach its life expectancy in 2020, according to a report that was compiled by Dillon Consulting Ltd. back in 2011.

SEE: The swimming pool’s current schedule

Last week, several councillors recommended accepting the funding as part of the Building Canada Fund. By officially doing so Monday, the city agrees to chip in at least $4.3 million itself for the new aquatic centre.

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“The city may match or add to the project budget utilizing funding from sources other than the tax base and formula funding,” read a staff report attached to Monday’s agenda.

Replacing the city’s pool could come at a cost of $30 million to $55.9 million according to estimates from the city and Dillon Consulting Ltd.

While the staff report gave no indication as to where a new facility might be located, the development of a new pool is expected to be presented in the upcoming 2017-2019 budget cycle.

Dennis Kefalas, the city’s senior administrative officer, says the funding is expected to kick in by 2018.

“Under the stipulations, we have to spend the money by I think December 2022 and we can start drawing from it as early as 2018,” he told councillors Monday.

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The parameters of the funding indicate that the project must be completed by 2022. To meet that timeline, the city is recommending that construction be budgeted for completion in 2021.

Kefalas says funding can be used for both planning and construction of the new facility.

“From my point of view this is an exciting pot of money to dip into,” said councillor Niels Konge. “I’m certainly going to support this.”

If council decided not to accept the funding, it would have been returned to the federal government.

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Yellowknife pool regularly at capacity

The staff report attached to Monday’s agenda also indicated that the pool is regularly at capacity and that different user groups are often forced to share lanes.

“Currently the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool is at capacity and has been for many years,” the report stated.

“There are several instances throughout a typical week where pool sharing occurs to ensure the limited pool time is optimized.”

The current pool also lacks the necessary 50-metre lanes to hold regional or national level competitive swimming events.

What happens next?

Starting in 2018, the city will coordinate a series of public consultations to get a better idea of what the community needs.

Once that’s completed, a report will be submitted to councillors for their consideration. A committee would then be formed to guide the development of the new facility.

According to the staff report, current borrowing rates should make it easier for the city to cover its portion of the project.

“The timing of the Building Canada Fund provides the city the opportunity to develop the recreation infrastructure at a time when interest rates are at an all-time low,” the report stated.

“With the Building Canada Funding … and the ability to borrow at very low rates, that means there would be no immediate tax increase to pay for the project and the debt can be serviced utilizing Gas Tax Rebate funding.”

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