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Morinville sinks pavillion; funds splash park reno

The budgets for the rink, splash park, and pavilion ballooned once engineers tested soil conditions at the Ray MacDonald site.
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FIXED AT A COST — Morinville town council passed a series of motions May 25 to fund repairs to the town’s splash park, shown here. Two playgrounds and the town’s tennis courts had to be dropped to fund the fix. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

Morinville will fix its busted splash park this year after all, but will have to cancel two parks, a tennis court, and a pavilion to afford it. 

Morinville town council held a series of votes May 25 to adjust their 2021 capital plan to cover cost overruns. 

On May 11, council learned that the town’s work on 100th Street had run over budget by $355,000. They also learned the cost of the proposed park pavilion at the old Ray MacDonald Sports Complex had doubled to $570,000. Councillors were furious to learn that paying for these overruns might mean cancelling this year’s rebuild of the town’s splash park

Council received more bad news at the May 25 meeting.  

New estimates from ISL Engineering showed that the price of the proposed outdoor multi-sport facility (the concrete outdoor rink) on the Ray MacDonald grounds had more than doubled to $878,800 from $395,000, and that the pavilion would now cost about $998,400 — more than three times its original price of $285,000. The cost to replace the partially broken splash park (also on the Ray MacDonald site) had also more than doubled to $564,200. 

Troubled grounds 

The budgets for the rink, splash park, and pavilion ballooned once engineers tested soil conditions at the Ray MacDonald site, said town infrastructure services general manager Iain Bushell. Those tests found the grounds were high in silt and moisture, making them ill-suited for heavy concrete rinks and prone to drainage and frost problems. The town would have to dig up, replace, and insulate the area to compensate, which carried significant costs.  

Coun. Scott Richardson asked if the town couldn’t put the rink somewhere else for less money. 

“Close to a million dollars for an outdoor multi-sport-plex is, I’m going to say, astronomical.” 

Bushell said the town could explore another site, such as the Morinville Leisure Centre lands, but might see similar geotechnical problems there. A move would also delay construction several weeks and risk not having the rink ready for winter.  

Coun. Lawrence Giffin moved to build the rink at the Ray MacDonald site and to fund it by cancelling the pavilion and taking $200,000 from the curb-extension project (which sought to put curb extensions along 100th Street for pedestrian safety; council freed up this money by going for a cheaper design). He said Morinville needed an outdoor rink, and that rink needed power, water, and parking — all of which were at the Ray MacDonald site. 

Coun. Rebecca Balanko opposed the idea, concerned that even more unexpected costs could arise with the rink. 

“I really feel we’re biting off more than we can chew at this point.” 

Giffin’s move passed 4-3 (Balanko, Richardson, and Coun. Stephen Dafoe opposed). 

One for price of three

Giffin next moved to fix the town’s splash park, with the extra cash coming from cancelling repairs to the town’s tennis court, not replacing the Grandin Heights and South Glens playgrounds, and doing the demolition work in-house.  

“This is one of the most well used facilities in the town of Morinville,” he said of the splash park, and the town could save money by building it in parallel with the just-approved outdoor rink next to it. 

While he liked the splash park, Dafoe said he could not support replacing it at its current cost and at the expense of those other projects. Richardson also opposed Giffin’s move, saying the town could build two splash parks at that price, and likened the decision to defund the playgrounds as, "Robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Dafoe moved to effectively pause the splash park, playgrounds, and tennis court projects so the next council could decide which to fund. Doing so would let residents still use the park this summer and give the town more time to find cash for these initiatives. 

“Good things come to those who wait, and I think that’s what we need to do,” Dafoe said. 

Council voted down Dafoe’s proposal 3-4 (Balanko, Dafoe, and Richardson in favour) and approved Giffin’s idea 4-3 (Boutestein, Giffin, Coun. Sarah Hall, and Mayor Barry Turner in favour).  

Council voted 6-1 (Richardson opposed) to cover the 100th-Street shortfall by cancelling plans to pave trail links around The Lakes region and utilizing $65,250 in unallocated Municipal Sustainability Initiative funds.  

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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