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New West fairly confident of meeting its $114-million budget for new aquatic centre

Worse-than-anticipated soil conditions prompted 2022 increase to original budget for təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre
The new aquatic and community centre set to open in New West in February 2024 has a $114-million budget.

New Westminster is fairly certain its newest civic facility can be built within the currently-approved $114-million budget.

At its Feb. 27 meeting, council received an update about the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, which is expected to open in February 2024. A staff report breaks down the funding for the project: $93 million will be funded from debt; $3 million from grants; $1.8 million from the facility replacement reserve; and $16.2 million from the general fund provisions reserve.

According to a staff report, the city has spent about $62 million on the project to date, leaving another $53 million to be spent. The contingency that’s still available for the project is $2.9 million.

“How confident are we that we are going to hit the $114-million mark?” Fontaine asked. “Is there any sense as to whether or not we may be into this project beyond the $114 million that's listed in the report?”

May said the project team has tried to identify some of the remaining risks.

“We have great financial certainty in the work that we've committed so far,” she told council. “So, pending further unknowns, which reduce the closer you get to the end of the project, we have fairly good certainty.”

The report states that there is there is always a risk of unexpected or unforeseen events, thus the city’s June 2022 decision to replenish the contingency.

May said the contingency budget is contained within that $114 million overall budget for the project.

“So we do have contingencies to address unknown conditions should they arise.  But we have, I think at this point in the project, $2 million in the contingency that is uncommitted,” she said. “In order to manage that amount, we're also tracking potential costs. … So we are tracking to be within that $2 million.”

Originally projected to cost $106 million, council approved an $8 million budget increase to the project in June 2022. That included $3 million to replenish the contingency and $5 million to support contracts for furniture, fixtures, equipment, civil and landscaping.

“The budget adjustment was largely due to worse-than-anticipated soil conditions that resulted in the depletion of the project’s construction contingency,” said the report.

Coun. Daniel Fontaine questioned how the city encountered “worse-than-anticipated soil conditions” on a property owned by the City of New Westminster.

“I have heard this a lot from the public around: why didn't we know, when we own the land, that there would be issues with the land?” he said

Tobi May, the city’s manager of civic buildings and properties, said the city anticipated there would be issues with the land.

“What we found when we opened up the ground was, despite robust studies done at the time, that the ground conditions were really inconsistent, partly because of it having been a ravine that was filled in,” she said. “There were tree stumps and car parts and other things …. So it was worse than anticipated, despite having dealt with fairly significant testing.”

During Monday’s discussion, Fontaine also questioned the status of a report about the cause of issues that resulted in the unexpected closure of Canada Games Pool. The city had originally planned for the facility to remain open until the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre was complete.

📢 SOUND OFF: Are you looking forward to the new aquatic centre opening? Do you think the city has handled the project well? Share your thoughts — send us a letter.

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