By Carol Martin
Thursday, February 10, 2005
The agreement to build Sault Ste. Marie's new arena and event facility was finalized over the lunch hour today by all three levels of government, SooToday.com has learned.
Construction will begin May 10, 2005 and all invoices for eligible federal and provincial funds must be dated before March 31, 2006.
"The money came in today, it's in the bank. $370,000 [so far]," said City Commissioner of Community Services Nick Apostle.
A tender pre-qualification has been issued by the City.
It calls for structural steel, mechanical and electrical contractors interested in bidding on construction of the new sports and entertainment centre to submit proposals by 3 p.m. on March 4, 2005.
"Anyone who does not pre-qualify cannot bid on the project," said Franco Pastore, consulting architect on the project.
The tender pre-qualification informs prospective contractors that the existing Memorial Gardens facility will be demolished, the site improved and a new 4,400 seat facility built there.
The cost of the project is estimated to be almost $25 million.
"We’re months away from construction so we are very comfortable with the $25 million," said Ward 1 Councillor James Caicco, chair of the Sault Ste. Marie Sports and Entertainment Centre Committee.
Caicco asks for more
At a meeting of the committee today, Caicco and others took one more stab at trying to convince Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program representative Dave Van Wagoner to increase the federal and provincial contribution to the maximum of 40 percent.
"When we’re talking 36 or 40 percent it's a very close number, but for us it's a big deal when we've taken on such a big responsibility," said Caicco.
"Is there anything that can be done to bridge that very small gap?" Caicco asked Van Wagoner.
"No," answered Van Wagoner. "What was passed was passed by the Cabinet and the Province of Ontario."
Van Wagoner is a consultant from the Sports, Culture and Tourism Partnerships Secretariat.
It's his job to consult with municipalities seeking Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program funds, and then make recommendations to the Ministry of Culture and of Tourism and Recreation.
36.4 percent comes from feds and province
Through an agreement with Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program, the federal and provincial governments will be putting in 36.4 percent of the eligible costs up to $7.4 million.
Under the agreement, invoices for eligible expenses will be submitted to the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program office and the City will then be reimbursed.
The funds deposited in City accounts today represent the first infusion of federal and provincial monies for actual construction of the new arena.
They came with a few cautions.
Sorry, changes not allowed
First, the agreement was accepted as an Act of Parliament, so the maximum amount and the deadline for submission of invoices cannot be changed, said Van Wagoner, who adds that the agreement is very specific and not open to changes.
However, because the definition of what expenses are eligible under the agreement are so specific, the door has been opened for the City to pursue other funding options.
"There is no double dipping," Van Wagoner said.
"When Schedule B, which is the part of the funding agreement that describes what it is that we're going to fund, was written, we were very careful to make sure that items that would be funded are ones that would be exclusively towards our funding for this project," he said.
Bricks and mortar
The agreement is strictly a 'bricks and mortar' type of funding arrangement, said Apostle, who worked closely with Van Wagoner to draft the document.
Caicco was assured that there's nothing in today's agreement that will hamper the City’s pursuit of additional funding for aspects of the project not covered by this agreement.
"If the Trillium Fund were to come along and assist you with the Memorial Tower, as an example," said Van Wagoner, "That would not be a part of our project and we would do everything in our power to endorse the fact that you were doing it and tell that funding agency to assist it," he said.
The next step will be on May 9, when the agreement that City Council sent to Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program for approval a few months ago comes back to them for a final sign-off.
Meanwhile, the Sault Ste. Marie Sports and Entertainment Centre Committee will be continuing its efforts to find more funds for the project.
'It's very good news. It makes it official'
"It's encouraging that we can go after additional sources of funding," said Caicco, "whether it be Trillium, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., FedNor, and anything that we can do in conjunction with the veterans."
"It's very good news," Caicco said about the confirmation of up to $7.4 million for the new facility. "It makes it official."