Fed theatre funds a lock: Williams

“We will have no risk of not getting the $2.5 million … we would have already expensed what we would have needed.”

Barrie’s cultural director wants to make it perfectly clear: there is absolutely no chance the city will miss out on the full amount of federal funding allocated for the under-construction downtown community theatre.
That’s because all the billing required to achieve the $2.5-million contribution from Cultural Spaces Canada will have been invoiced by March 31, the federal deadline for the project to be substantially completed, Williams, director of the department of culture, told City Scene Barrie.
“We will have no risk of not getting the $2.5 million … we would have already expensed what we would have needed.”
The funding formula used by Cultural Spaces Canada provides 50 cents on the dollar on all invoices submitted by March 31, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, says Williams, who adds he expects the theatre to be substantially completed by that date.
The theatre’s original budget of $5.4 million has grown to nearly $6 million after council approved an additional $600,000 to cover unexpected costs. The total tally for the theatre, including the purchase of the property and interest on the money to be debentured, is in the range of $7.7 million.
With the additional funds, the City’s contribution now stands at more than $3 million. Local fundraising is supposed to garner $1.3 million, but no funds have been raised to date.
Negotiations, said Williams, are underway on the $600,000, with the goal of having 50 per cent of the amount covered under the funding formula.
Discoveries not anticipated include structural surprises, including evidence of a fire of which no record could be found. That drove a rethink of the project’s initial strategy of renovating the existing building, says Williams, ultimately leading to the decision to demolish and rebuild.
Ironically, the very success of the federal infrastructure program contributed to higher-than-expected tender costs, as a glut of projects forced costs upwards. “The (contractors) were in the situation to pick and choose,” says Williams. (For more on project surprises, read this City Scene Barrie story).
Mayor Jeff Lehman also expects the theatre to be substantially completed on time, in part because of the construction process being employed.
“The City is using a technique called construction management which allows the project managers to stage the tenders and work independently, working faster than with a typical project. It will be a challenge, but staff continues to believe it will be substantially complete by the deadline.”
Ward 2 Coun. Lynn Strachan, representing the city’s core where the theatre is being built on the southwest corner of the Five Points intersection, echoed the mayor’s comments.
“I am confident that we will have enough work completed to qualify for the federal funding. We have a project-management team and they are working quickly and efficiently under these tight timelines.”
So, what does ‘substantially completed’ mean? Williams says there is no standard definition, and a ruling is based on a project-by-project basis, but “it’s a term used to really mean that the facility is able to be used for its intended purposes.”
There’s even a chance that the City could get additional funds at the “minister’s discretion,” advises Williams, explaining that if other infrastructure projects come in under-budget, funds can be allocated to projects that are over-budget, such as the community theatre.
While a lot of attention has been focused on the theatre, Williams points out it is the smallest of the City’s infrastructure projects, paling in comparison to the largest, the new fire station and headquarters being built on Dunlop Street, on the site of the old Barrie Arena.
Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard, chair of the City’s economic development and transportation committee, says the theatre is a major initiative for the downtown core.
“I don’t think any level of government would want to pull the plug on its funding obligations when most of the heavy lifting has been done. To do so does nothing to spur on further investment or confidence in our city, and spurring on investment and creating confidence in Canada’s economy, including Barrie, is exactly what the stimulus program(s) were all about.”

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