On Saturday night, Liam Edwards was processing the positive result of the referendum that determined whether the proposed community centre would go ahead.
On Monday morning, he was meeting with the centre’s project management team on what it will take to get a shovel in the ground.
“I know council and a lot of people here were very excited [by the vote],” the municipality’s CAO said Monday afternoon. “I was like 'All right. Excellent. Now we get to move forward with the project.’ I scheduled a meeting for first thing this morning with the consultants and the team and we dove right into the detail work that needs to be done.
“We were, 'Let's go; let's get this thing happening.’"
The first post-referendum meeting was fruitful.
Edwards notes that the architectural design was done in 2018. Since then, building code requirements for accessibility have changed, including wider doors. “It's going to make the building even more accessible for people with accessibility needs, which is a good thing,” he says.
As well, the $7.96-million federal-provincial government grant outlines some very clear requirements about things such as energy performance requirements. The municipality will have to get the mechanical, electrical and structural teams back together “to make sure that we've got the design lined up with all of those other elements,” says Edwards, who before joining the municipality in May, worked for the provincial government where he oversaw local governments’ finances, worked with communities on their infrastructure needs and was deputy inspector of municipalities.
“To do the tender right, and to do it well,” he says, “will take at least two months, which would put us into the end of November.”
December is not a good time to put out the tender so he expects it will be done early next year. “We give the market between four and six weeks to review the project and to build their packages and their bids. It’s therefore our hope that we're securing our preferred bidder in the spring, that would line us up for construction to begin late spring/early summer,” Edwards says.
There won’t be public consultation on the bidding process steps. “We got a clear majority vote to move ahead with the project as it's currently envisioned. That is with the architectural design as it currently stands so that's what we're moving forward with,” the CAO says. “We don't anticipate from the market anything that's going to look any different than what we've already been sharing with the public.”
There is one big caveat when working on a project this size, especially for someone with Edwards’ “what-if?” approach. If the market comes back and more money would be required to get everything in the plan, “the first step would be to finetune the project and sharpen our pencils,” he says. “Our next option is to negotiate with our preferred bidder to try to get us to the place we need to be. There are quite a number of ways for us to do that without having to do a full-scale redesign.”
It’s taken a long time to get to the beginning of what will be a relatively short process leading to construction. “I would just like to acknowledge the community for coming out and voting,” Edwards says. “We recognize that not everybody voted in favour of it. While it was a clear majority, that to me is just a great example of democracy at work. We're going to try our best to make sure we deliver an outcome or a facility that meets as many of the needs of the community as possible.”
Martha Perkins is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.