NANAIMO — Spending $1 million on preparations for Nanaimo's events centre, even before the referendum, is simply part of due diligence, according to the city's chief financial officer.
City staff are asking for council's approval to pull $500,000 from reserves to pay for phase three and four of the events centre process. Council is expected to vote on the request at a Feb. 20 meeting.
Victor Mema says that money will go towards the referendum, which is estimated to cost $130,000, as well as public engagement, an architect and a project manager.
"The work we're doing now is putting the city in a better position if this proceeds past the referendum, but it also provides some clarity to the public as we work through this now," Mema said.
He said the city wants to get to a place where if the referendum is approved there's no waiting time to pull the resources together. Mema said at the same time, you don't want to "over commit."
If council approves the request on Monday, there will be 19 days left before the March 11 referendum. The city's final open house information session is set for March 1. Considering the short timeline, Mema was asked why not wait until after the vote before spending any more money on something that may not happen.
"That's a self-defeating position," Mema said. "The residents have come out clearly, 'if we're going to do this we have to do this responsibly.' Part of that is doing your due diligence."
He also said public engagement goes beyond the open houses and includes fielding questions that are sent in and meeting with "specific stakeholder groups," like the business community and university.
Phase one and two of the process ran up a bill of around $500,000, according to Mema.
Mayor Bill McKay has said he sometimes gets "sticker shock" when he sees the cost of some of the studies into the project, but said it's necessary to get all of the information out there.
The city is hosting an open house Thursday night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Oliver Woods Community Centre.
On Twitter: @domabassi
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