North Cowichan is hoping a government grant from a program developed to help communities deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will pay for the entire cost of a new roof at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.
At its meeting on Jan. 20, council gave the green light for staff to apply for approximately $1.7 million, which would cover the entire cost of the roof replacement, from the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream, which is part of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
The program was developed in response to the effects of COVID-19 on communities across the province.
Don Stewart, the municipality’s director of parks and recreation, said the roof of the CAC is deemed to reach the end of its serviceable life by 2022.
“As a result, this project was targeted for replacement within the 2022 capital budget plan, with funding to come from a combination of general revenues and facility reserve funds,” he said.
“In July 2020, council was advised that the province and the government of Canada had partnered to develop the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream. As the replacement of the CAC’s roof is the type of project that is supported under the CVRIS, staff have prioritized the development of construction-ready documents and a probable cost analysis that would be required for the grant application.”
Stewart said funding under this program is available up to 100 per cent of eligible project costs, and the chosen projects must be started by Jan. 27, 2021, and be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.
As the CAC, which is also co-owned by the City of Duncan, and was built just 13 years ago, Coun. Rosalie Sawrie asked staff why the roof at the CAC would need to be completely replaced after just a short time.
CAO Ted Swabey said aquatic environments are hard on steel structures.
“Like many other aquatic centres, we have to replace our roof before we got the life we expected out of it,” he said.
A $2.8-million major retrofit and expansion of the CAC, which began in June, was just finished earlier this month, with major funding for that project coming from a $2.4-million grant from the Federal Gas Tax Fund.
If the grant application is successful, the funding for the roof replacement will be just the latest government funding North Cowichan will have received to help deal with the financial impacts of COVID-19.
The municipality learned in November that it would receive $4.4 million from the province’s COVID-19 Safe Restart Program, intended to help local governments offset costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has helped North Cowichan forecast a possible tax increase of just 2.31 per cent in 2021, far lower than the more than seven per cent increase that was considered possible in June after the full impacts of the pandemic on the municipality were assessed.