Posted on 04/14/2016, 6:00 am, by mySteinbach

Steinbach city council members, including Earl Funk, Cari Penner, Susan Penner, Jac Siemens and Michael Zwaagstra, have responded to allegations that the City failed to reach the “finish line” and did not complete a master planning process for a multiplex. Members noted that the City has commissioned several master plans for a multiplex in the past and discovered that they all had one thing in common – none were realistic or affordable for a city the size of Steinbach.

In early 2012, Meyers Norris Penny (MNP) created a master plan for a multiplex that incorporated input from a previous multiplex working group. The report recommended a $107 million multiplex to be located at A.D. Penner Park and assumed that two-thirds of the total capital funding ($66 million) would come from other levels of government. The funding scenario was found to be unrealistic and unaffordable. In addition, it would have been necessary to relocate A.D. Penner Park, including the baseball diamonds and football field, thus adding additional costs and removing Steinbach’s best-known community park.

In this scenario, assuming that the City received two-thirds capital funds from other sources, which would be very unlikely, the City would have still needed to borrow more than $33 million. If borrowed over the City’s normal five-year term, the funding would have amounted to an annual $7.2 million debt payment and a mill rate increase of 7.06 mills (current mill rate is 13.23). Without taking significant operating costs into account,this would have worked out to a tax increase of 53% or approximately $900 per year for a home assessed at $250,000.

If the debt term would have been stretched out over 20 years, the City would have still needed 2.41 mills of taxation to cover the annual $2.4 million debt payment, which equates to a tax increase of 18%. In addition, the City would have needed to pay approximately $15 million in interest over the longer borrowing term, money that would have been paid by local taxpayers.

In 2014, the City asked Stantec Architects to develop a new master plan that included three major components – a Performing Arts Centre (PAC), a new spectator arena and a fieldhouse for court sports along with a new community arena and a downtown parkade. In spring of 2015, Stantec presented a master plan that had an estimated price tag of $71 million.

The Stantec report projected that the City would receive only one-third ($23.7 million) of the capital costs from other levels of government. It also estimated private contributions of approximately $4 million, still leaving the City on the hook for approximately $40 million of capital costs plus operating costs. Regardless of the length of the borrowing term, the result would still be an unacceptable tax increase for Steinbach businesses and residents.

Instead of proceeding with yet another unaffordable and unrealistic master plan, City council decided to set a new direction for recreation that is both progressive and attainable. Provided there is adequate support from other levels of government and from private contributions, the City will proceed with a Performing Arts Centre in the downtown area and cap the City’s total contribution at a maximum of $7.5 million. Council notes that they are committed to keeping downtown Steinbach a vibrant and desirable place to live and do business, which is why they are committed to keeping the Performing Arts Centre in the downtown core.

Steinbach is the envy of other communities precisely because we have not gotten in over our heads with massive discretionary projects that negatively impact our ability to keep up with basic infrastructure. While we have rejected a master plan for a $100 million multiplex, we have adopted a master plan for recreation that lays out a realistic path forward. We are excited about the future of our city and look forward to working together with businesses and residents to enhance recreation in Steinbach. ~ Steinbach City Council

Council members also noted that while the downtown location makes sense for a Performing Arts Centre, it does not make sense for a new arena. That is why additional land at a non-downtown location for a future spectator arena will be actively sought after. This will allow private groups to already begin planning for this project. When a new arena comes to fruition in the future, the existing arenas can be retrofitted for court sports and/or soccer. This would cost dramatically less than building everything new. Instead of preventing future recreation, by putting the multiplex discussion to rest, the City can move ahead with a real plan.