The biggest community facility project the Town of Canmore has ever undertaken was the key focus of the mayor’s annual address to the development industry.
The $38.9 million Multiplex project, currently in the pre-tender qualifying stage, is a window of opportunity for Canmore, according to Mayor Ron Casey.
Casey was in front of the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA) last week to give his annual state of Canmore address.
He said the opportunity, brought about by the announcement of Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant funding, was to do something that sustained the community and didn’t just fix potholes.
“The fact is we are living in a mountain community that looks different than other resort mountain communities,” he said. “Canmore has consistently said we want to be the best at community.
“We have always had a different driving push behind us.”
Casey said the amount of funding coming Canmore’s way through the MSI program likely would never happen again and it presented an opportunity to do something for the community to benefit from for generations.
The project includes a library, art gallery, climbing wall, fitness centre, multi-use space, food kiosk and aquatics centre.
Originally it had included a daycare/preschool, however, those were removed. Currently, there is a proposed project for the Lawrence Grassi Middle School site to build a replica of the CP Roundhouse as a new community daycare/preschool.
The mayor commended the work done so far by the development industry on the project, which has a budget of only $1.9 million.
“This needs to be something the community owns, not just something the government goes away and builds,” Casey said. “We have a process here that allows the community to be involved.”
Casey went over some of the operational numbers as well.
“Getting (the Multiplex) out of the ground is the easy part – keeping it running is the hard part,” he said.
In total, annual new costs for the Multiplex are expected to be $662,000, or an estimated four per cent increase in municipal taxes.
“Really, when you think about it, we are getting a $39 million asset for a total carrying debt of $6 million,” said the mayor. “That is where the MSI funding truly was a window of opportunity to get this facility built.”
Asked about plans for the facilities that are being replaced, like the library and the Rec Centre, the mayor said no work has been done.
Casey said until the Town is absolutely sure the Multiplex will go ahead it will not begin planning for the future of those existing facilities.
Currently, the Town’s reserves sit at $16.9 million and in five years they are projected to be $22 million. Debt today sits at $26 million and is expected to reach $33 million by 2015.
Casey noted over the next two years council will have its work cut out in dealing with the operational budget and a shortfall of $1 million in the utility rate model from decreased off-site levies.
The levies are collected through new development in the community and pay off debt related to infrastructure already built to deal with growth.
The mayor was asked if those agreements with the industry should be reevaluated and projects delayed.
Casey said the Town has begun discussing pushing out growth-related projects, but that does not change the annual shortfall.
“It is a little bit difficult to rationalize decreasing off-site levies when the community is paying $1 million a year in debt that was planned to be collected through off-site levies,” he said. “The only way (the model) works is if development continues evenly.
“If it drops off, the Town of Canmore has to front that risk; but we always knew the Town was taking that risk.”
Casey also detailed development numbers for the industry.
During 2010 there was a total of $28 million in residential construction representing 28 units built. That included nine single family homes at a value of $9.7 million.
There was also $9 million in commercial construction, for a total of $38 million for the year. That is compared to a total of $33 million in 2009.
But is in the 10-year trends the mayor says the information reveals more.
In 2001, residential construction totaled $35 million, but that resulted in 214 units being built. That is compared to the 28 units built in 2010 for $28 million and the 19 units built for $26 million in 2009.
“You can see what has drastically changed is the uptake in the Canmore market,” he said. “I think the shocking part is how dramatically those (unit) numbers have dropped off.”
The numbers maxed out in 2007 with 426 residential units being built with a total construction cost of $139 million.