Developing a contaminated brownfield costs a lot of greenbacks - every year.
During budget deliberations this week, city councillors were reminded about some of the ongoing costs associated with their decision to build the $55.5-million Orillia Recreation Centre at 255 West St. S.
This year, the city will fork out $330,000 for on-site and off-site monitoring of the property that was formerly home to Otaco, a factory that operated on the site for several decades.
That cost may decrease marginally but there will always be six-figure annual ongoing monitoring costs, staff noted.
Coun. David Campbell, who was not on council when the site was selected, admitted to being surprised at the annual price tag.
Andrew Schell, the city’s director of environmental services and operations, said the cost for 2020 is a bit higher due to some construction elements.
Schell said the Certificate of Property Use (CPU) for the recreation centre requires environmental monitoring and subsequent reports to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (formerly MoE) each year.
Off-site monitoring is also required.
Schell said a consulting firm conducts both on-site and off-site environmental monitoring of the CPU requirements; monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual sampling is required.
The monitoring program includes measuring groundwater quality, surface water and sediment quality in Ben’s Ditch (adjacent to the site) as well as soil vapour and ecological conditions.
“Over the years, if we see either no issue with exceedances or diminishing chemical quality, we’ll go back to the ministry and ask them to reduce those requirements,” said Schell. “We anticipate, over time, this cost will go down.”
Schell said the five-year plan forecasts a yearly cost of about $250,000.
“We will be doing monitoring for its existence,” said Schell, noting monitoring of indoor air quality within the facility is also required once it opens.
In addition, councillors approved, this week, a one-time expenditure of $290,000 for soil additives to improve the organic composition of Foundry Park, the acreage around the facility that will be home to trails and trees.
Ray Merkley, the city’s director of parks, recreation and culture, reminded politicians that the city saved considerable money when it was decided to truck in fill from future employment lands in West Orillia for Foundry Park.
However, onsite analysis of the fill material “indicates a low organic composition.”
To “ensure the long-term health and success of the naturalized area,” staff recommended that additional topsoil and/or fertilizer additives be imported prior to or in concert with the application of the top seed mix/ground cover.
In a report tabled during capital budget deliberations, it was noted the soil enhancements “would also aid in stabilizing the soils on the site” which will “reduce soil erosion while the grasses are established.”
While some councillors balked at the price tag, others thought it was vital.
“We’ve created this wonderful building that’s going to be a major attraction for years to come and if we don’t plant properly, it’s going to be in a barren field,” said Coun. Pat Hehn. “We need to do this.”
Coun. Ted Emond agreed.
He said without this investment the city would “have a signature building stuck in the middle of a 20-acre field of dust and dirt.”
He also referenced the former ODCVI site on West Street. After the old school was demolished by its new owner, the County of Simcoe, they attempted to seed the grass. Emond noted there was very little grass, lots of weeds and it was “quite ugly.”
Several councillors wanted to see the money for the seeding come from the as-yet unused portion of the contingency fund for the recreation centre. Ultimately, that idea did not gain traction as staff were concerned there may not be sufficient funds to cover the additional $290,000 cost.
As a result, money for this seeding/planting will be taken from the major capital facilities reserve fund.