New funding stream may not be enough for twin-pad arena: Quinton

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A new fund announced in the provincial budget is meant to support projects like Chatham-Kent’s multi-sports complex, but the municipality’s chief financial officer says it still may not be enough.

Gord Quinton said the local project – which includes a new twin-pad arena – won’t go ahead without two-thirds funding from upper levels of government, which now represents about $50 million. The province’s new fund has $200 million available and so far isn’t linked to a federal spending program.

“The cost of building a facility has gone up 10 per cent in the last year since the last time we talked about it,” Quinton said. “I don’t want to put doubts on this, but when they haven’t come out with the (details of the) program and there is only $200 million, it’s hard to say what they are looking at.”

The sports complex would replace the Memorial and Erickson arenas in Chatham if the funding is secured.

The municipality applied for support for the project last year through the community, culture and recreation stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, which is delivered by both the federal and provincial governments.

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The province didn’t recommend moving the project ahead for approval from the federal government. Many submissions in Ontario were rejected because there wasn’t enough money. The program received about $11 billion in asks for the $1 billion available to distribute by both levels of government.

The provincial budget said the new program – the sport and community renewal stream of the Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund – is meant to make up for those projects that weren’t approved under last year’s funding stream.

“Of course, once the details of the program come out, we’ll then take it to council to consider an application,” Quinton said. “It never hurts to apply. We were quite a ways down the path last time, so it’s quite easy to reapply depending on what the stipulations of the grant (are) once it actually comes out.”

However, he said there will be “stiff competition” and the provincial election cycle will also be a factor. He said the municipality may have to fund a different project through this stream, if securing the $50 million isn’t possible under the parameters of the program.

Aaron Graab, legislative assistant to Chatham-Kent—Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls, said, like most programs announced in the budget, more details are coming.

He said there was an “oversubscription” with the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Fund last year.

“This federally designed program wasn’t large enough to fund what municipalities need,” Graab said. “It was the second smallest stream. There was close to 1,200 applications worth over $11 billion dollars in requests for only $320 million dollars in provincial money available.

“This is why Ontario has asked the federal government to invest an extra $10 billion dollars a year for the next 10 years for all provinces and territories.”

Quinton said the new arena is “continuously” on the municipality’s radar.

“Obviously our buildings are just getting older and older and older,” he said. “Memorial (Arena) is not lasting forever, so we have to deal with it, but council has been very clear that we need that two-thirds funding, so we’ll go after any source that we can.”

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