/Minden council unhappy with arena snack bar construction cost

Minden council unhappy with arena snack bar construction cost

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Almost half a million dollars for an arena concession stand.

You read that correctly.

You’d be reasonable to expect to nosh gourmet hot dogs with some snazzy mustard from such an establishment.

Minden Hills township council heard during its Jan. 26 regular meeting that just one company made an offer on a call for tenders to build a concession stand at the new S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and Minden Hills Community Centre.

MVW Construction & Engineering Inc. quoted $423,554.51 to do the work.

The thing is, the township projected to borrow $360,000 for the design and construction of the concession stand.

“The result of our tender wasn’t very tender,” quipped Mayor Bob Carter just before council tucked into discussion on the matter.

A request for tender (RFT) was issued Oct. 26 to solicit bids for the supply and renovation of the concession stand at the arena. The window to submit a bid closed Nov. 23.

Only MVW Construction & Engineering Inc. attended a Nov. 8 mandatory site meeting, making them the only firm eligible to bid on the project.

“I’m not happy,” Carter said. “I don’t know that anybody is happy. It’s unfortunate that the design was done in the way it was done.”

Councillor Tammy McKelvey said the snack bar is going to be run by a private party with the proceeds to go into their pocket. And, with nothing in the 2022 budget for the concession stand, the town intended to borrow $300,000.

“I’m prepared to rip the Band-aid off here,” McKelvey said. “We cannot afford a snack bar in an arena that’s already put us in very difficult financial (straits).

“I don’t want to spend any more staff time. That’s my opinion.”

Coun. Ivan Ingram suggested council allow another year before making a decision.

“That’s a huge number to look at, considering all the things we’ve put off the past few years,” he said. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

McDonald Brothers Construction Inc. (MBC) declined to bid. MBC provided the original budget forecasting for the project.

“McDonald Brothers, who did the original construction of the facility, expressed that they could not fit the project into their timeline,” said Craig Belfry, the town’s community services director.

He described three options staff believe would get the job done.

Belfry said the first option is to re-tender the project with revised timelines and a reduced scope. A second option is to accept the submission by MVW and increase the budget. A third route would be to reduce components and design to bring the project in budget if possible.

Staff have found that projects are seeing increases in costs. High prices in supplies and construction expenses are driving costs higher.

Opting to retender the project and reduce the project’s scope will add design fees and additional time to the project. And Belfry said there is no guarantee that, by the time the new scope gets tendered, construction fees will not have increased. 

Retendering the project without changing the scope may have legal ramifications, he said.

Belfry said township staff recommends reducing the concession stand’s components and changing its design in order to whittle down the project cost.

Carter said he doesn’t want to give up on the snack bar and he believes the township should pursue the third option suggested by staff.

“I recognize that, if we had put in the snack bar in the beginning, it would have increased the cost who knows how much, but it would’ve all been lumped in to that total,” Carter said.

The MVW proposal included $125,000 for equipment, including $40,000 each for two ventless fryers, and $60,000 for electrical work.

Ventless fryers are required as a conventional commercial hood fan will not fit in the space, as per the building code. Other equipment include commercial grade fridges, beverage dispensers, warming ovens, heated display cabinets, popcorn machine, hot dog roller, dollies, and food warmers.

Belfry said the cost for electrical work is quite high because the hookup is at the other end of the arena. The installation has to stretch across the building to the rear arena area, as sufficient power load sourcing was not installed for this area during the initial construction.

Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell requested Belfry work with the company to try to lower the cost.

“I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said. “I don’t want to spend any more money on this, but we can’t have an arena without a snack bar. Or some kind of an option for food.”

To simplify everything, Ingram broached the option of installing vending machines.

Coun. Pam Sayne said $423,554.51 is too much to pay, given the municipality’s other needs.

“It seems with all the technology in the world, we could spend a lot less to boil a hot dog and serve it,” Sayne said.

Belfry said vending machines could be considered as part of a smaller design. He also said the kitchen equipment suggested in the tender could be changed.

“You can go as basic as cupboards, three sinks to meet the health code, and countertop appliances,” he said. “You can’t eliminate some equipment.”

Coun. Shirley Johannessen lobbied for the use of a food truck that can be parked at the arena and used for various events throughout the town.

In the end, a motion to receive the department report as information and to direct staff to work with the contractor to lower the cost was defeated.