Plan A for Bracebridge’s Multi-Use Community Centre failed, but the town’s Mayor says they had a plan B ready.

Mayor Graydon Smith says they’re in the “active phase” right now and have already pre-qualified bidders. He says a tender package will be sent to them in the first part of 2021 with the plan to start work on the project this year. On the town’s website, it’s estimated the facility will open on Salmon Avenue in March 2023, but Smith notes that construction is always a moving target. “We’ll try to hit the timelines as best we can,” he says.

The town was denied funding from the federal and provincial government over the summer to help with the project that would replace the 70-year-old Memorial Arena and 111-year-old library. Plan A was to build the arena, library, fieldhouse, and community centre all at once. With no funding from the government, the library and fieldhouse are being put on the back burner “for now” and the town will build only the arena and community centre. 

“We’re still looking for opportunities to get those projects done,” Smith says of the library and fieldhouse.

“I’m still blown away by that,” Smith says on being denied funding. “I don’t know how old our infrastructure has to get for them to feel it needs to be replaced.” He says they have gotten no indication as to why they were denied funding. Smith speculates there were probably “10 times more dollars” asked for than available in Ontario. “There were too many mouths to feed,” he says. He adds that this is what happens when programs aren’t available to build culture and recreation infrastructure for over a decade. “You simply get everyone knocking on the door at once,” he says.

Smith estimates it will cost around $30 million as it currently stands, but says it’s “to be determined” on how much the library and fieldhouse will cost when and if they get built. “It’s a costly project and numbers people likely aren’t hearing in a small community,” Smith says. He says they will continue to petition the government for funding, but didn’t provide any details on how that will be done. 

“Our concern is when it gets done in stages the ultimate price is more expensive than doing it all at once,” Smith worries. He does say they planned to ensure they could build the complex in stages or all at once. 

Smith says without the benefit of funding, they will dip into money they’ve been putting aside for the past decade. “As part of conservative fiscal management on this project we’ve been putting money away for about 10 years in a major capital reserve,” he explains. He says that gives them cash but also money saved through taxes paid by residents. He says that can be converted into debt, which he explains is like taking a mortgage out on a house. “That will allow us to access quite a bit of money and people won’t see their taxes go up,” Smith explains. “Essentially taxpayers have been pre-paying us for the project.”

With money coming out of a reserve fund, Smith says it’s possible other projects the town is doing get pushed back. “The hope is we don’t have to move anything,” he says, but adds it’s not impossible that something does happen. “We would find things that are more internal before we went to external things the public uses on a daily basis,” he says.