Aquatic centre construction will start in October.

Nelson aquatic centre to close for 11 months on Sept. 19

Construction will begin in October.

The aquatic centre will be closing for renovations and repairs on September 19 for up to 11 months. The decision was made at a meeting of the regional recreation commission today.

“It is a big gulp for the directors to think about closing for almost a year,” said Nelson mayor Deb Kozak, who sits on the recreation commission. But she said she accepts the expertise of the company recently hired to manage the project, Unitech Construction Management Ltd.

Unitech was hired recently following the failure of a bidding process that produced nothing but over-budget bids. The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) decided then to switch to a model that would see the hiring of a single construction manager for the whole project but with individual sections of the job tendered out to trade-specific companies, rather than hiring one company to do the whole project.

The work on the building includes renovations and upgrades to mechanical systems, electrical panels and equipment, lifeguard station, sauna, pool decks, tiles, and waterproofing membranes. The gym and the arena will remain open.

When Unitech was hired, the RDCK’s budget for the project was $4.8 million, with a $4.5 million borrowing cap. At today’s meeting, Unitech representatives presented a plan that would cost $5.2 million, along with a list of cost-savings that would bring the budget down to $4.8 million. The cost-savings consisted mostly of renovations or repairs that Unitech and RDCK managers thought desirable but expendable.

Unitech representative Rick Boats explained at the meeting that the $4.8 million plan is made up of the prices of future bids from various trade contractors throughout the project as it progresses, and is therefore an estimate, but he said he tried to conservative and built in a 10 per cent contingency.

He said that as the project progresses, decisions can be made by the commission as to whether those items on the extras list could be allowed back into the project, depending on the budget at the time.

The commission voted to accept the $4.8 million plan. And with that vote came an agreement that four of the items on the extras list must remain out of the project because they would have to be started now or never. Those were replacement of hot pool skimmers, improvements to the sauna, improved gutters, and what a Unitech report describes as “simplified mach/chem entry room.”

The commission will prioritize the rest of the extra items at its next meeting.

“Our construction managers at Unitech have shown us what we already knew,” said Joe Chirico, the RDCK’s  community services manager. “This pool is going to close itself unless we close it and fix it now.”

Asked by the Star why the centre will be closed for 11 months when it was previously thought it would be closed for eight, Chirico said, “We have had construction experts working on this in detail. That is the time they feel it would take. They said as they move along they hope to shorten it to eight.”

“We have agonized over this,” Kozak told the meeting. “As directors we are thinking not just of the immediate future but the long term future of our communities. The Nelson area is growing community, and a pool that will meet those needs into the future is paramount.”

The members of the recreation commission are rural area E representative Ramona Faust (chair), Nelson mayor Deb Kozak, Nelson councillors Valerie Warmington and Janice Morrison, and rural area F representative Tom Newell.

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