By Chad Ingram
It will be at least June before the Township of Minden Hills opens its new arena and recreation complex, councillors agreed during a budget meeting earlier this month
While initially scheduled to be completed in late summer of 2020, finishing touches, including the sealing of concrete floors, the addition of painted lines in the gymnasium, etc., continue to be put on the building. Provincial restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have also meant that many of the activities that would have taken place at the complex have been prohibited.
“I think that anything short of that is a pipe dream, I just don’t think it’s on,” Mayor Brent Devolin said of a June opening during a Jan. 14 budget meeting. “Does that seem like a reasonable date?”
“I agree with June,” said Councillor Bob Carter. “In my notes I put June, and then most of the additional staffing, would be sort of in that Sept. 1 timeframe, for the purpose of budgeting. You don’t need somebody to be driving a Zamboni in July.”
Staffing positions for the facility included in the community services draft budget were a full-time lead hand with salary and benefits totalling $60,000; a full-time reception and booking position with annual costs of $47,000; a full-time janitorial labourer with $53,000 in wages and benefits; part-time operators for a total of nearly $50,000; and part-time student positions totalling approximately $30,000 for a year, for an overall total of $240,000 in staffing costs for a year.
Not having the ice until August would also save operating costs, community services director Craig Belfry noted. The ice plant, which had been budgeted to be turned on in January, would not start up until late summer, for example, thereby saving energy costs.
Devolin also noted that even once the complex is open, the ongoing pandemic will likely mean that limited numbers of people will be able to use spaces at one time, as users will have to abide by social distancing protocols.
“Probably not a large number of people in the workout room, a limited number of persons on the walking track,” Devolin said, adding this may equate to a lesser need to be fully staffed.
The project’s initial budget was approximately $12.5 million, with McDonald Brothers Construction, the sole bidder on the project, later coming to council requesting and receiving an additional $250,000, bringing its total base budget to $12.75 million. The facility includes an NHL-sized ice rink, six change rooms, office space for community services staff, a multipurpose gymnasium, fitness room and elevated walking track.
Councillors have since approved and continue to approve additional expenditures for the facility, including $93,000 in equipment and maintenance items required for its operation, $60,000 for office furniture, and more than $48,000 in specialized sanitization equipment and cleaning supplies. A snack bar was not included in the building’s construction, something councillors have agreed they want included in the facility. The estimated cost for that canteen – including electrical work, plumbing, appliances, painting, millwork, etc. – was $40,000, but is now $60,000.
Some of those items may be added to the loan from Infrastructure Ontario, which is paying for the bulk of the project.
During the Jan. 14 budget meeting, council also approved $1,800 for volleyball lines to be painted on the gymnasium floor.
“The installation of these lines were not included in the original scope of the work for the project, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation has provided funding for volleyball nets,” read a staff report from Belfry. “The gym is also already laid out for volleyball net configuration.”