The Central Coast Regional District has received another $990,840 in funding to perform long-awaited upgrades on the existing Centennial Pool for a total of just over $4 million. Originally built in 1967, the facility was constructed with proceeds from the federal government as part of its Centennial celebrations.
The swimming pool has provided lifeguard training and leadership opportunities for the youth of the Bella Coola Valley since it commenced operations. It offers Red Cross swimming lessons, lifesaving and First Aid, leadership training, private rentals, school classes, public and lap swims. It operates from June – September every year and is a much loved recreation facility in the Valley, especially for youth and families.
“The majority of the original funding of $3.3 million was from the Government of Canada’s Federal Gas Tax Fund and the CCRD’s Community Works Fund reserve and Asset Replacement Fund,” said Area C CCRD Director Jayme Kennedy. “This latest $990,840 is from Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP), a provincially-funded umbrella program, which is providing one-time infrastructure funding grants to communities throughout the province.”
There was also $250,000 from Northern Development Initiative Trust to complete the buildings around the pool.
The community was presented with three special options for public input back in 2018 and they all include additional features such as a lazy river and/or a separate shallow area for tots. All three designs incorporate the addition of a hot tub, but Kennedy said the final design still has not been determined.
“The project as proposed includes a new 25m pool basin, hot pool, decks and mechanical system, with the option for additional features if the budget allows for it,” said Operations Manager Ken McIlwain. “With respect to the pool changeroom building, the current concept design incorporates most of the existing building envelope, however it will ultimately be up to the project architects to determine how, and if we can integrate the existing building into the new floorplan.”
“The final design of the pool has not been chosen but operations will be working with architects to ensure the design chosen is right for our community,” said Kennedy. “The design will include features to allow for improved accessibility including universal change rooms and a zero-entry ramp.”
While the community may always long for a year-round pool and there have been numerous discussions around this in the past, Kennedy says it is probably not an option.
Kenneday said the cost to maintain and staff a year-round pool is above $700,000 annually (currently the pool is operated for around $100,000 per year) which is about the same as the entire current tax requisition for the whole regional district.
“Honestly, I do not foresee this coming to pass,” she said. “The costs to run and build would be prohibitive in a community of our size.”
Kennedy said the work is planned during the off season and is set to commence at the end of the 2021 season and they are hoping it will be complete by the spring of 2022, with the hopes of not impacting the pool’s short operational months. The project has faced delays but McIlwain is hopeful it will be going ahead this year.
“Early last year, CCRD advertised in both BC and Alberta, requesting pool design and construction proposals from interested contractors. No proposals were received. Interested parties expressed a hesitancy to take on both building envelope work and pool construction work,” explained McIlwain. “Then in the spring of 2020, COVID-19 impacts were felt and there was a lot of uncertainty moving forward with projects in Bella Coola and elsewhere in the Regional District. Many of our project timelines were impacted as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Grant funders have been understanding and generous with extensions to funding agreements. This past fall, the decision was made to try and access more funding to support the building envelope part of the project. With the additional funding in place CCRD will have more flexibility in project delivery methodology and can move forward with greater certainty. “
The Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program is providing $100 million in one-time infrastructure grants for projects that are ready to go throughout the province. These projects will improve community economic resilience, develop tourism infrastructure, support unique heritage infrastructure and support economic recovery for rural communities.
“This funding for the pool is through our new $100-million COVID-19 Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program, which is part of our overall $10 billion response to COVID. This means infrastructure funding for roads and housing, but also cultural, recreational, and other kinds of infrastructure which is crucial for both people’s quality of life, and for having a strong, diversified economy,” said North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice. “Recreation is important for physical and mental health and learning how to swim is also important, and that’s what this facility provides for people in the valley. Projects like this are a triple-whammy of investing in things that benefit people in their daily lives, build up local infrastructure, and help provide COVID economic recovery stimulus.”
CERIP funding is distributed across five different streams managed by separate partner ministries: Municipal Affairs; Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport; Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operators and Rural Development; and Children and Family Development. All CERIP projects must begin construction in 2021 and be completed by March 31, 2023.