Concept illustration shows rough sketches from the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre. Courtesy City of Victoria

Gas tax cash helps Victoria reach funding threshold for Crystal Pool

$69-million project won’t go to referendum if cost covered by three levels of government

A $6 million boost from the federal Gas Tax Fund has pushed the City of Victoria’s commitment to the 20 per cent level for funding the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre replacement project.

That means the City, which committed $10 million from its buildings and infrastructure reserve, meets the federal-provincial infrastructure funding formula of 40 per cent each from the province and federal government and 20 from the municipality. It also would allow the City to avoid a public referendum on borrowing the balance of funds for the $69.4-million project.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the gas tax cash approval is a good indication the project meets the desired outcomes for the federal government in terms of greenhouse gas emission reductions, improved community health, affordability and accessibility.

“I think it ticks the federal boxes very well, and I think the provincial government is very happy with it as well,” she said, noting that both B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi made positive comments about the project.

“You never know when you start to shop the project around what the response from funders will be … This gives it strength as a fundable project,” Helps said.

The City has been in discussions with the upper levels of government to get their feedback on the project, Helps said, and it appears all are looking to make a determination on major funding by March 31.

“In a perfect world … we’d like to have the pool under construction by the end of 2018.”

Receipt of the gas tax money is contingent upon the City securing the remaining funding within one year. The Union of B.C. Municipalities administers the gas tax funding in B.C. and applications are made through them.

The aging Crystal Pool facility has been the subject of replacement discussions for a number of years. Council approved the current plan in February 2017 and voted to leave the final decision on borrowing the remaining funds to the public in a referendum. The $3.3-million design contract was approved in December.

The new facility would not only increase recreation capacity over the existing pool, it would use energy efficient technology that would reduce the City’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

More on the Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre Replacement project can be found at victoria.ca/poolfuture.

editor@vicnews.com

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