Phase 3 budget approved as Nanaimo's event centre referendum looms

By Spencer Sterritt
February 23, 2017 - 5:24pm

The latest phase of event centre planning was passed by Nanaimo's city council, though questions still swirl about the cost of the project. BBB Architects

NANAIMO — The budget for phase three of the event centre plan has been significantly reduced.

At Monday's city council meeting, the $500,000 allocation requested by staff was reduced to $291,000 by removing expenses for BBB Architects. It now includes $130,000 for the actual referendum on March 11 with the remaining $161,000 covering the open houses, project manager and financial and legal advisors.

Council passed the latest round of expenses 5-2, with coun. Ian Thorpe and mayor Bill McKay opposed. Councillors Pratt and Brennan were not in attendance.

Thorpe told council and staff he'd supported the earlier phases because he was interested in learning more about the development, but couldn't stand behind more spending.

“I'm really pleased that we're having public engagement sessions, I'm pleased we're having referendums but I am not interested in committing to anymore spending to this project until after the referendum,” he said.

Coun. Gord Fuller commented on the “interesting” way the monetary figures in the various phases were presented but supported the latest phase.

Chief administrative officer Tracy Samra said the price tag for the various phases was determined after looking back on past projects the City of Nanaimo had undertaken, such as Colliery Dam and the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

“One of the lessons we've learned is you do need to do your due diligence, you do need to be able to assess what the costs are and that's what staff has done,” she said. “We are comfortable with the amount of due diligence we have done for the event centre...we have a high level of confidence the $80 million is sufficient to build the event centre in the manner being proposed.”

Nanaimo residents can visit two more event centre open houses before heading to the polls.

One is March 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Beban Park Lounge and a new open house is on March 7 from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Royal Arbutus Room at Vancouver Island University-Nanaimo campus.


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