The Cowichan Valley Regional District has given pre-approval for almost $165,000 in extra spending in its 2022 budget for the new pickleball courts at the Kerry Park Recreation Centre.
But the approval came only after a lengthy discussion at the board table at its meeting on Jan. 12 where some directors lamented the increased costs of the project, which is now $744,500, well over the $580,000 that was initially budgeted.
In asking for the pre-approval for the funding, which will come from operating reserves, Kim Liddle, manager of South Cowichan Recreation, said 2021 saw “dramatic and unforeseen” cost increases in the construction market making the extra money necessary.
The CVRD had hoped that a $550,000 grant received last year from the province would have almost completely covered the cost of the pickleball courts.
Blaise Salmon, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, said at the meeting on Jan. 12 that the board has a large number of funding requests to consider as part of the 2022 budget process, and he was hesitant about approving this request without looking at the rest first.
“There are four new pickleball courts in Shawnigan Lake that have been built at a fraction of the cost of this,” he said.
“I would prefer to defer this decision until we can see what the other demands on our budget are.”
The South Cowichan Pickleball Club has been pushing for a facility since 2018, so South Cowichan Recreation took a chance on applying for what was anticipated to be almost the total cost of the project at the time to B.C.’s new Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program, and it came through.
The new additions will include six new pickleball courts, a gravel parking lot, a structure with washrooms and changing rooms, a picnic area and a perimeter trail around the grounds that will connect with the Shawnigan Creek nature trail.
Mike Wilson, director for Cobble Hill, said he would like to see some reductions to the project’s scope that would lower its cost.
He asked Liddle if six courts were needed at this time.
“Could we go with four courts for now and plan for an expansion at a later date?” Wilson asked.
“We do have a huge amount of supplements [funding requests] to consider. This funding that is being asked for will come from reserves, but we will have to pay the piper sometime.”
Liddle said the $550,000 grant from the province is based on the project having six courts, a parking lot, walking trail, picnic area and washroom facilities.
“[The province] has already allowed us to reduce the scope of it once, but I’m anticipating they won’t allow further cuts,” she said.
“If we ask for more cuts to the project, we risk losing the $550,000 grant.”
Sierra Acton, director for Shawnigan Lake, said she had concerns that the board would risk losing the grant “on a project that is actually getting done” if it didn’t move forward with pre-approving the increase in the project’s budget.
“[The board] is poking into this while we have long-term staff who are very experienced on getting grants for the recreation centre and making [projects] happen,” she said.
“And now, at the last hour, when we know construction costs have gone up and property values have gone up 40 per cent, we’re trying to nickel and dime this amazing project that will benefit not only the south end, but the whole region. It’s happening right now and we’re talking about risking it. For once, let’s get something done in a really positive light.”
The board approved the funding, with Klaus Kuhn, director for Youbou/Meade Creek, opposed.