GRAVENHURST - Gravenhurst Centennial Centre’s final budget has been released and what was to be an approximately $18-million project has become a $24,412,600 tab.
Centre about $4 million over original budget.
Councillor Bob Colhoun says he finds legal costs hard to accept.
Although about $22 million will be split three ways between the municipal, provincial and federal governments, an overrun of $2,412,000 due to legal costs and roof work will have to be picked up by the town alone.
Those additional legal costs, reaching $450,500 raised some eyebrows among members of the council table, but will have to be borne regardless.
“I’ve got a serious problem with the municipality spending almost half a million dollars on the whim of someone who makes accusations that were unsubstantiated and we’ve got to go along for the ride. I find that hard to accept, but I guess we have to,” Coun. Bob Colhoun said.
The additional legal costs were due to an investigation into Dalton Company, the lead construction outfit in charge of the centre’s expansion.
A Toronto Star article in 2011 alleged the company of impropriety with some $1.8 million of the funds received for the centre’s expansion.
The allegation was subsequently found untrue after a seven-month, anti-rackets investigation by the OPP. As part of the investigation, the town funded a forensic audit and surveyor’s report to delve into records and the claims, with the final tab reaching above the $450,000 mark.
“We agonized over the extra money that we had to spend; but in order to appease the constituents, the taxpayers, the public, that their money was being protected, it really put us behind the eight-ball, put a gun to our heads, and we really didn’t have a choice,” explained Deputy Mayor Jeff Watson, who was also part of the centennial centre’s decision committee.
“As sad as it is, I know when the decisions were made to go ahead with the investigation, it was done for the intent to ensure the public’s money was being protected and that there was no abuse nor extra spending going on.”
The rest of the overrun is due to a problem with the design of the centennial centre roof system.
While it was constructed to specifications, the roof had issues come this past spring thaw where the original roof meshes with the expanded portion. Extra waterproofing will be installed in that section of roof and ice-melting capabilities will be improved with a contingency fund built in as well.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy, principal architect with CS&P Architects Inc., said while the project did run over budget, it wasn’t out of line with many of its scope.
“For 78,000 square feet of complex addition and renovation to an existing building, that would definitely be within or better than the industry standard for recreational facilities,” she said. “Budgeting for construction of a recreational facility would be in the neighbourhood of $300 a square foot and (the centennial centre’s) construction is in the neighbourhood of $281 per square foot.”
“So it definitely is value for the money,” O’Shaughnessy added. “I think you have a very high-standard building that will long outlast the 30 years of the original building.”
Although lamenting the extra cost, Coun. Joe Donoghue said he feels the end result was also well worth the price.
“I know we took some hits and had to spend some extra money; (it’s a) great project, with positive response,” he said. “I know it was a tough road, but we got good value overall for our dollar and it was well spent.”
“We got a $24-million-building that appears to be worth $24 million,” said Coun. Randy Jorgensen. “The town residents are really getting very good value for their money.”
Deputy treasurer Janice LePage explained that approximately $2.4 million will be debentured over 20 to 30 years at an estimated 3.5 per cent interest, or about $146,000 per year in new payments (based on 25 years), while also representing about 1.6 per cent more on the current tax levy annually. This is an additional debt load now above the approximately $9.6 million the municipality already has debentured for centre expansion.