One of the biggest breaking stories from the past year was a proposed new multiplex for the Town of Port Hardy.
In an exclusive interview with the North Island Gazette, Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood gave an update on where the project is currently at as the new year starts to unfold.
“We’re right on schedule,” said Bood, adding that the District “has gone through the process. The referendum got a 77.5 per cent vote, which shows that the people of Port Hardy are also ready.”
Bood explained that the next step in the process is grant funding.
“We held our referendum and got the permission from the residents to borrow the amount of money that we need to borrow, which is around $4,000,000, and now we’re going to go for federal/provincial grants. The next opening for recreational grant funding is in March, and we’re ready for that. Our grant writer has done her job and we’re ready to put our application in.”
Bood added that while the District has access to borrow $6,000,000 for the construction if needed, they are determined to stay around $4,000,000.
“I don’t think Port Hardy can afford $6,000,000 so we have to come in right on $4,000,0000, or very close to it,” confirmed Bood, who also stated there could be up to roughly $8,000,000 in grant funding available, which makes building a new pool “financially viable for the town of Port Hardy.”
Port Hardy’s aquatic centre was built in the 1970s and is the only covered pool currently located on the entire North Island, and at this point it is “costing us as much to repair it as a payment for a new pool,” said Bood.
He added one of the good things about this project is that right from the start “it was driven by the community.”
The District held an open house on Thursday, Oct. 6 where they unveiled the architectural designs for the multiplex.
The night also included a donation of $250,000 from Marine Harvest.
“Marine Harvest committed the $250,000 very early on, right from the beginning,” said Bood. “That made a big difference, because it told the community that a company the size of Marine Harvest is supporting us and they feel like we have a future. That was a nice pat on the back.”
On the subject of how he felt the residents received the open house itself, Bood was quick to say he felt it gave the people of Port Hardy the chance to “come in and personally ask questions about it. I think the success of the event was one of the reasons we were able to get the referendum vote that we did.”
“There’s this saying in politics, when you’re the Mayor you lead – and in order to lead, you need people to follow,” said Bood with a laugh.
“I’m honestly never sure when I hold a referendum, or run for election, whether the folks in Port Hardy are gonna vote one way or the other. It was really gratifying to see that the community saw the need for a new facility. It shows that they have optimism for the future of this community.”
Bood added the District definitely heard the town’s feedback from the open house and they are currently working to “fit in the wishes of the people who wanted the pool a lot bigger, with the wishes of those who don’t want to spend up to six million dollars. The facility is designed, however, there’s small changes we can make, and there’s still a possibility for things like a bigger slide or another lap lane.”
Construction is “looking to start late 2017, early 2018,” said Bood. “If we get our grant funding then we’re off to the races.”
Regarding support from the Regional District of Mount Waddington, Bood stated the aquatic centre is “obviously going to be a regional facility from a practical point of view. It’s going to be a facility that will be used by the entire North Island, and we are going to be making a presentation to the RDMW board on Jan. 17 and we’re confident that the RDMW will want to participate in some way, but the participation level is totally up to them.”
“We’re looking forward to working with them and having them participate in some fashion.”