Courtenay applying for grant to help pay to expand, renovate Lewis Centre

The City of Courtenay hopes a new provincial program will reduce borrowing costs to expand and renovate the Lewis Centre.

The City of Courtenay hopes a new provincial grant program will reduce the City’s borrowing costs for the expansion and renovation of the Lewis Centre.

Council voted Monday that the City will apply for funding through the provincial government’s Community Recreation Grant Program for the Lewis Centre project.

The provincial government recently announced the Community Recreation Grant Program, and $30 million has been allocated for the fund, according to the report from community services director Randy Wiwchar and financial services director Tillie Manthey.

The guidelines for the grant indicate that $400,000 is the range of maximum funding each project may receive, and project selection criteria will be focused on the extent to which the community is advancing the principle of being more physically active and on providing community health benefits, according to the report.

“The Lewis Centre project meets all of the criteria for the grant,” wrote Wiwchar and Manthey. “Health benefits, accessibility, community use, special events, youth and seniors activities, climate action initiatives and energy efficiency are all key components of the Lewis Centre project.”

In October, council voted to borrow up to $4.2 million to renovate and expand the Lewis Centre.

The city received 212 verified elector responses opposing the borrowing through the alternate approval process, a fraction of the 1,802 responses needed to force a referendum.

The entire renovation and expansion project — which  includes adding 14,000 square feet at the back of the centre, providing a new weightroom and space for meeting, storage, crafts and special needs — is expected to cost about $5.4 million. City staff is projecting that $1 million would come from Community Works Fund gas tax reserves to fund mechanical and ventilation upgrades, while $4.2 million would come from new borrowing.

Coun. Larry Jangula said he was “kind of torn” about the grant.

“I’m in favour of applying for the money, but I’m sort of between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “A lot of people when I was campaigning had real concerns about spending this money without any input.”

Coun. Jon Ambler wasn’t torn at all.

“The input is called the alternate approval process, and if people don’t take advantage of it, it’s their problem, not mine,” he said. “What the staff is proposing to do is something I love to see them do, and that’s spend other people’s money. I think that’s what we should be doing, and I look forward to getting our fair share and then applying it to this project.”

Coun. Doug Hillian agreed that the opportunity for input was there during the alternate approval process.

“I know there’s been some discussion of this during the election campaign, but essentially this is a decision of council,” he said. “The majority of the people who made the decision are, in fact, back at the council table, and I would certainly endorse proceeding with this.”

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