Despite the fact that construction of a multi-use recreation complex (MURC) in Keswick was fast-tracked to 2017 from 2024, the town’s options will be more fully explored July 5, after a staff report on the facility was tabled at council last month.
A number of issues were raised by the town’s recreation and culture department in the report regarding the appropriate timing of the facility’s construction, as well as its overall function.
Preliminary plans for the MURC, at an estimated cost of $30 million, included a multi-tank aquatics complex, double gymnasium, dedicated youth and seniors areas and supplemental spaces for food services, sports organizations and offices.
Moving the town’s administrative offices from the civic centre to the MURC location was also suggested as a potential consideration, especially in light of the civic centre’s age, layout and accessibility issues.
The MURC may now also play into the fire department’s long-term planning regarding fire station location, condition and ability to meet the needs of a growing community once its fire services master plan is completed later this year.
Same goes for the Georgina Library services review and master plan, expected to be completed this summer.
It is expected that the library will be updating its strategic plan in the fall with the MURC as another potential library site.
Although the recreational facility needs study proposed a number of amenities to be considered for the MURC, including a pool, further review is needed to confirm the scope of the project, as well as the financial plan for the investment, according to the report.
“In order to properly plan and execute the project, various reports and plans need to be finalized to provide a more clearly defined scope, timing and funding for the project,” the report states.
Those include the results of the fire, library and civic centre reviews, as well as the town’s updated long-range economic action plan, which are all slated to come before council in early October.
In addition, staff were looking for council direction regarding whether or not bumping the West Park baseball diamonds to the MURC site was an option since an estimated $7 to $8-million rehabilitation is being forecast for the current site to address soil and floodplain issues.
That is more expensive than an estimated $6-million construction of four ball diamonds, including accessory buildings and parking, on a new site requiring five to six hectares of land, according to the report.
At the request of Regional Councillor Danny Wheeler, the report was referred to a workshop slated for the first week of July so council and staff could go over the municipality’s options in depth.
That would allow a full examination of all aspects of the project, including potential land acquisitions and possibly adding modules in terms of other town facilities, so some decisions could be made with council moving forward with everyone on the same page, Wheeler said.
“We need a thorough discussion of this,” he said. “I want this over and done with. I don’t want to see people held out there with false hope and, on the other hand, I don’t want to see them thinking that it’s never going to get done.”
Mayor Margaret Quirk agreed.
“We all want to see this project move forward and we want to make sure it does in the best way possible in terms of all the studies, all the plans, but we need to make sure we are moving forward at the same pace with the same information,” she said.
“It’s a huge project, if not the biggest project the town has entertained to build, and it warrants spending that amount of extra time on it and focusing on it.”
The consulting firm that prepared the recreational facility needs study was contracted in May to provide an update to the MURC section of the 2014 study and to “reassess” their earlier recommendations with a particular focus on determining the preferred timing for delivery of the facility and its various components in light of recent changes.
Those include cross-over participation numbers for the MURC’s proposed pool from East Gwillimbury residents may be lower than originally anticipated since East Gwillimbury is planning its own recreation complex for 2021; a drop in population growth forecasts for Georgina from 70,300 to 62,200 by 2031; and local participation trends.
The town’s budget includes annual contributions of $683,070 to a reserve for the MURC, which will have a balance of $2,869,044 by the end of this year.
The development charges background study projects growth related costs of $30,875,900 for the MURC, including additional library facilities within the MURC, of which $27,608,310 is eligible for funding from development charges.
It is anticipated that $21,032,963 of the required DC funding will be achieved through growth in the period between 2016 and 2025.