Wakefield, Quebec community centre may slash amenities

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by Trevor Greenway on August 26, 2010

Bids on the construction of the Wakefield, Quebec community centre have come back with costs  much higher than expected, meaning some features in the plans, such as natural wood finishes and a geothermal heating system, may have to be scrapped.

The lowest bid for the construction of the building has come back at $4.6 million, $900,000 more than the expected $3.7 million slated for the building alone – and the Wakefield La Peche Community Centre Co-operative is seeking ways to bring the total down.

“We spent the last six months going through the budget to take it down,” said Project Co-ordinator Gwen Shea. “We took out all the landscaping, site work and drainage.”

Landscaping and site work will have to come from community funding, but Shea is hoping donations of services, material and equipment, will help the project along.

The centre was ready to break ground last week, but with the elevated bids the co-operative had to find ways either to reduce costs or find more cash. Both options are being explored.

The municipality of La Peche announced last week that it would be raising its contribution from $74,000 per year to $95,000 per year for 25 years, but that has to be approved by the province. The co-operative has also asked the feds and the province to increase their contributions by $400,000 each.

If all the monies are approved, then features like the geothermal system and wood finishes can stay. But if the funds aren’t forthcoming, then let the hacking begin.

“The big one is the geothermal,” said Shea, adding that the centre can save the most money by going with an alternative heating source. While another alternative may not be as green or sustainable as the geothermal, Shea says, “if it has to go, it has to go.”

The centre is also considering scaling back 50 to 100 per cent of the natural wood finishes for the building, replacing it with drywall or other cheaper alternatives.

A decision on the funding is expected within the next two weeks.

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Centre needs extension

Even though the federal and provincial governments chipped in a total of $3.2 million towards the project in 2009 as part of the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, the protocol wasn’t officially signed until Feb. 26 this year, leaving the co-operative with a lot of work to do in a short time.

“We waited six months for it,” said Shea. “We had to ask the architects to slow down.”

Given the delay, September seems to be a more realistic timeframe to break ground. But that gives the construction company only about seven months to complete the project, as provincial and federal funding under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund expires in March, 2011.

The co-operative has requested the funding agreement be extended by five months, because of the lost half-year.

“We would have started in March and finished in March,” said Shea, her theorizing based on the protocol’s signing on schedule. “If they held us up for six months, why not give us another five?”

Shea said she is optimistic about the extension, especially since the Meredith Centre in Chelsea got its Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (MRIF) funding extended until 2012.