Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke says the Cloverdale Sports & Ice Centre would have cost almost $10 million less to build had Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and his four Safe Surrey Coalition councillors not “shelved” the twin rink project in 2018.
Surrey council at its last meeting unanimously decided to borrow $150.6 million for three major community projects, through the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia, though Locke was among councillors who voiced apprehension about taking on so much debt.
Of that sum, $20.6 million is earmarked for the Cloverdale project.
According to a corporate report presented to council by Kam Grewal, Surrey’s general manager of finance, the Cloverdale project will provide two more sheets of ice for that community and is estimated to cost $50.1 million, with $29.5 million of that funded through pay-as-you go city financing and the rest through long-term borrowing through the MFA.
But had council approved the project “as originally planned” in the city’s 2018 budget, Locke said, it would have cost Surrey taxpayers much less money.
“If we’d had gone as planned, it would have been way less money, probably close to $10 million less, and it would have been built, and kids would have been skating on the ice four years earlier,” Locke told the Now-Leader.
She noted the Cloverdale rink was originally budgeted at $35 million but subsequent plans to enhance the project and the cost of addressing additional land preparation requirements then put the bill at $45 million. Locke said roughly $4 million had been spent on land preparation when the SSC “shelved” the project.
“The argument espoused by the mayor at that time claimed that there were land stability problems which would make the project ‘very expensive’ to build,” Locke said.
McCallum could not be reached for comment by press time.
Locke says the SSC’s claim that now is a good time to bring the project back because the cost of borrowing has made it viable is a “shallow argument” as its projected cost is now $50 million and the cost of borrowing $20.6 million of that through the MFA, “it would be fair to assume,” will increase and “may be two per cent or more.”
“While the Mayor and his SSC members claim that it was prudent to delay this project due to the cost of borrowing today,” Locke concluded, “that argument rings hollow.”
In reply to Locke’s claim that it would have cost $10 million less had the SSC not “shelved” the project, Councillor Doug Elford, of the SSC, said, “I don’t even know the real facts so I can’t comment on the actual numbers, to be honest with you. I’ve never seen them, so is that hearsay? I don’t know. I haven’t seen any figure so I can’t comment on something like that, hearsay, what one councillor says to the media.”
He said he’d go to city staff for “the facts.”
“Like I said, I can’t comment on it. I’m not going to get into a boxing match on this one until I get the facts.”
Councillor Laurie Guerra, also of the SSC, said she finds it “bizarre” that Locke then cast her vote in favour of borrowing the $150.6 million. “That’s my reaction, right there.
“I don’t look to the past, I look forward, and council unanimously approved the borrowing from the Municipal Finance Authority,” she said.
Guerra questioned how far back does one want to go?
“Do we continue to go back to where she was quoted a number of times that the Surrey police, that she was very much in favour of that? You know, it just goes on and on and on. We’re in 2021 right now, you know, there’s a lot to look forward to,” she remarked. “I’m going forward and looking very much forward to the future and want to see this city, this fantastic city, grow and change, and I’m thrilled with three projects that we approved the borrowing for.”