Kelowna’s most expensive capital project is in for a rocky ride | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna’s most expensive capital project is in for a rocky ride

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

The rebuilding of the now 50-year-old Parkinson Recreation Centre was first identified as the City of Kelowna’s top priority project in 2011.

But city council now has four new faces out of the nine members on council. Some of them, along with Kelowna’s longest serving councillor Luke Stack, are raising concerns about the project most recently priced at almost $155 million.

“It is time for sober second thought,” newly elected councillor Gord Lovegrove said after an update on the project at a morning meeting of council on Monday, Nov. 28. He was responding to a motion from newly-elected councillor Ron Cannan who said, in part, that any further work on the project will stop until the city’s recreation plans were reviewed.

“The reason I support this motion is not just because of what I heard, as well as others of us – and the (election) results bear that out – and I’m not going say it’s a strong sense, but there are some comments out there about the community centre,” Coun. Lovegrove said.

He tried, and failed, to put a two-month cap on that delay.

The motion to stop work on the project was ultimately defeated in a 6-2 vote but not before Coun. Stack cast some doubts.

He explained work has to continue on details such as to whether there will be a kitchen, how many gyms there are and where the parking lots stop and start.

“That’s why I want to keep it going because we need that level of detail next so that we can decide if we want to continue on that path or not,” Stack said. “I’m not saying that, by staying the current trajectory, that ultimately this project goes ahead. Ultimately it may be council’s decision to can it.”

The city’s 2023 provisional budget, which council will review next week, has identified $3.9 million for design work on what is now called the Kelowna Community Campus. But that item has a bar across it in the budget documents, which means it will be reviewed later in the year as “council approves related project milestones.”

The budget document also mentions the city will continue planning for an alternative approval process. That’s where 10% of voters have to sign petitions against the project in order to stop it and avoids the need to hold a referendum for what will be the city's most expensive project ever, if it goes ahead.

In contrast, in the Oct. 15 municipal election, Vernon voters passed a $121 million referendum to fund a similar new recreation centre in that city.

While efforts to delay the Parkinson project failed, the newly elected Kelowna councillors will take a tour of Lower Mainland facilities that the past council members took in 2021.

READ MORE: Kelowna city council plans to spend thousands on tour of Lower Mainland community centres

The community campus was projected to cost $50 million in 2015. The cost estimate grew to $100 million by 2020 then jumped by $34 million the next year. The city’s latest 10 year capital plan puts the price tag at $154.6 million.

“The idea of looking at potentially going into something which is maybe $200 million – I don’t know where it sits by the time it’s done or by the time we’re looking at it  - or maybe $150 million, deserves a lot of round table discussion,” Mayor Tom Dyas said. “That’s what we need to do on those particular items. What we see now is something that’s going to be discussed further.”

READ MORE: COVID has added $100 million in expenses for Kelowna's long range construction plans

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