I wrote a blog post back in October emphasizing my support for the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre. Alleviating the need for additional recreational capacity in West Edmonton remains a priority of mine, and given everything that happened through 2019-2022 Capital Budget deliberations I’d like to give you a brief update on where we are today with the proposed rec centre.
As a starting point, I’ll note that we were in a challenging position heading into budget deliberations with respect to this project. Given the tight economy and the City’s constrained financial picture, we were working from a stated emphasis on renewal over growth, and this being a major growth project, funding was not listed as part of City Administration’s initial budget proposal. Lewis Farms Rec Centre did, however, rank highly on the list of growth projects that could be financed via debt, pending Council direction.
Through the fall, Councillor Knack and I worked in collaboration with west end community leagues and other stakeholders to make the best case as to the need that this project would help fill, and we worked with our colleagues on Council to figure out ways in which we could find a path forward for the project. Those arguments were well heard, but given the constrained budget environment that Council was working with, there were concerns raised on Council and by the public over the cost of the project. While I feel strongly that building the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre remains a top priority for the City, I am certainly amenable to calls for fiscal prudence when dealing with projects of this scale.
Ultimately, we passed a motion during budget deliberations to set aside funding for this project while Administration engages in a value engineering exercise to assess each element of the proposed facility. Essentially this gives Council some ability to reduce costs if there are elements of the project design that can be tweaked, while at the same time providing certainty as to our borrowing room. We expect City Administration to come before Council in Summer 2019 with a report on their findings and some options for Council to consider.
While this does not mean that Lewis Farms Rec Centre has been approved outright at this time, I am optimistic that Council will endorse the project following this value engineering exercise. As currently proposed we would expect shovels in the ground in mid-2020, so we have some time to ensure that we are doing our due diligence without compromising on the construction timeline. If you have any questions or comments to share about this project or anything else, feel free to reach my office at 780-496-8120 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.