The RM of Reynolds is forging ahead with a long-gestating plan to convert the Hadashville Recreation Centre’s underused gymnasium into a municipal office.
A six-month renovation process kicked off last week with a brief sod-turning ceremony that was closed to the public on short notice, owing to newly tightened COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
The existing municipal office, housed in a 1,200-sq-ft. building located two kilometres north of the rec centre, had become cramped and fell short of modern accessibility standards, Reeve Trudy Turchyn said. Public hearings often drew more ratepayers than there were chairs to seat them.
The new office will offer 3,400 sq. ft. of space. Architectural drawings depict four offices, a larger council chamber and gallery, and a meeting room, lunchroom, washrooms, and file storage. A new front entrance and three new windows will also be installed. Turchyn said the new office will also offer more parking space.
Turchyn said the idea of repurposing the gym had been around for a decade. Three years ago, the centre’s board of directors broached the idea of converting it into a municipal office.
Buying land and building a new office would have cost an estimated $1.5 million, a figure Turchyn called "impractical" for the sparsely populated municipality.
A May 2019 public meeting was called to float the gym conversion plan to ratepayers. Turchyn told attendees that a "gold standard" renovation would cost $700,000, while a satisfactory conversion could be done for "$300,000 or less."
Reaction was mixed. Supporters called the plan cost-effective, while detractors worried about the loss of indoor recreation space. The municipality’s only other gym is in Prawda.
Last year, a relocation committee was established and the estimated cost of the project climbed to $450,000.
On March 9, council awarded the tender for renovations to Winnipeg-based Boretta Construction, which submitted a bid of $709,252. The funds will be drawn from the RM’s accumulated surplus and general reserves.
Turchyn attributed the cost increase to a spike in the price of construction materials occasioned by COVID-19, which also scuttled additional community consultations.
"But council is confident that we are making the decisions our electorate would agree with and believe that now is the time for moving forward," she said.
In fact, Turchyn and Coun. Curtis Buley voted against the March 9 resolution, which was carried by the remaining six members of council.
"My concern was the prices (of materials)," Turchyn explained. "But council decided now was the time. We’ve invested a lot of time in negotiation and they felt, let’s get going."
The RM is also the new owner of the rec centre and surrounding 10-acre property, which were purchased from the board for $1.
Turchyn said the board will continue to operate the centre’s banquet hall and senior’s club, while the RM will maintain the rest of the property and pay the electric bill.
"We believe this will be a winning combination for the community and the municipality, by relieving the community of the infrastructure maintenance and operating costs, and by providing the RM of Reynolds with an empty canvas with existing utilities," Turchyn said.
Phase 2 of the redevelopment plan entails building a 32,000-sq-ft. public works compound next to the new office to consolidate equipment and materials currently stored in garages and trailers.
"We really need one secure, central location," Turchyn said.
She hopes to complete Phase 2 "in the next couple of years."