"We heard loud and clear at stakeholder meetings that cost is a critical factor."
This from Marc Downing of Toronto's MJMA Architects during a special meeting updating the status of the City of North Bay's community and recreation centre project, Tuesday.
Downing told a committee comprised of Mayor Al McDonald and all 10 city councillors, "We want to assure you that we've done everything we possibly can to keep this project on budget."
Despite estimates the proposed Lakeshore Drive facility — including a community centre, twin-pads and walking track — could reach $35 million, the project design team of MJMA and local firm Mitchell Jensen Architects reported their cost estimate range for an 85,000 square foot build at $390 per square foot comes in at $33.5–$33.7 million, with a five per cent contingency.
"We can deliver the project on budget," declared Downing.
Community and recreation centre discussions will pick up as part of the capital budget public discussions beginning next week.
Although much of the presentation from the team responsible for the design of the proposed facility to be located at Steve Omischl Sports Complex on Lakeshore Drive centred on its sustainability, functionality, and accessibility — all important cornerstones of a facility that it is hoped will retain its usefulness decades into the future — municipal politicians focused the ensuing discussion on the cost of the project.
Coun. Dave Mendicino sought assurances about the finances behind the project.
"So we're clear, in 2019 we put in our budget a plan to finance $30 million. I'm assuming we're going to see during the budget process next week how the CFO and Budget Chief are recommending we pay for the difference we're seeing here?" asked Mendicino.
City Engineer John Severino, who has been heavily involved in the project from the outset, replied, "The financial plan to fund the project will be shared through the special committee meetings on the capital budget, the week of the 24th. A plan has been developed and will be shared with the committee next week."
Coun. Mark King raised concerns about the five per cent contingency included as part of the estimate and wondered how the contingency was affected by the rate of inflation over the course of the build.
Nathan Jensen of Mitchell Jensen Architects responded the "budget number already includes inflationary costs for the next quarter and a bit. We carry some amount of inflation for when the project may tender."
Downing acknowledged the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry is one not easily predicted.
Severino advised, "Contingency is not to address inflation," but rather unforeseen events.
An example of such an event by the design team revolved around sub-grade and blasting factors they feel have been mitigated by the project's extensive geotechnical investigation.
Jensen later added, in his experience, a five per cent contingency more than covered any potential issues.
Coun. Chris Mayne confirmed with Downing the tender documents for the project would be ready to go if the will of Council is to proceed.
"We're at that point where Council really needs to make the decision whether to move forward or not," observed Mayne. "I appreciate the detail you've gone to with the planning and the cost estimates but at the end of the day, it's the tender that really comes back with the price that counts."
Mayne added he is prepared to go to tender for the community and recreation centre as soon as possible "to nail down the specific price and decide — if we can't afford it — how we plan to finance it."