Invermere council has chosen a company to build the planned new multi-use centre.

At a special council meeting on Friday, April 22nd, council members voted to award the contract for the work to Creston-based T.A. Rendek and Associates Ltd. for $7.45 million.

This has been a really long process, said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, pointing out that the site of centre (the old David Thompson Secondary School location) was purchased 22 years ago and discussion on building a new community centre of some sort has been ongoing ever since.

It’s really exciting to have the design done, the money borrowed and to be about to start construction, said Mr. Taft. This facility is going to be a game changer. It will be a hub and will remind people that it’s not all doom and gloom in the valley or in downtown Invermere, and that when this valley comes together there is quite a lot we can achieve.

The district had received six bids for the work, all of which came in higher than expected (ranging in price from $8.2 million to $10.35 million) and so district staff undertook negotiations with lowest bidder T.A. Rendek to see if the cost could be further lowered by swapping out some building materials and leaving out some aspects of the planned centre (aside from the core building) or pushing them back to later date.

To be clear, some difficult decisions had to be made in order to see the project move forward, Invermere chief administrative officer Chris Prosser told council. Additional aspects of the project still left in the $7.45 million price include abatement and demolition of the old bus garage on the site. Aspects left out, reduced or deferred include all soft landscaping around the centre (including the outdoor amphitheatre); asphalt parking and access (which will be deferred and incorporated in the 4th Street water project set for 2017); the retractable main room partition; lighting grid components; retractable seating; kitchen equipment; the library fit out (including a planned sliding door entrance); and all theatre components and lighting (including sound equipment, lights and lighting controls, audio visual equipment, stage equipment and curtains). In addition, the planned outdoor hard surface areas will be decreased in size from 6,500 square feet (600 square metres) to 3,000 square feet (275 square metres) and concrete will be for these surfaces instead of paving stones.

Mr. Prosser added all these aspects left out of the initial construction can be added later, as more funding becomes available.

Mr. Taft commented that perhaps in some ways the decrease in outdoor hard surface areas could be seen in a positive light, since it now allows for a mix of hard surfaces and grass.

Harder surfaces are easier to maintain, but grass is more user-friendly, he said, adding one of things council has been criticized for with the Cenotaph Park is the amount of concrete there.

Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F director Wendy Booth, who was in the audience, asked if the planned rooftop patio was still included in the design, and Mr. Prosser confirmed it is.

It (the patio) is an expensive space, but it is unique. It’s the only thing like it in the valley, said Mr. Taft, adding the patio could be rented out for weddings and other large functions, generating income to offset the cost of the centre.

Mr. Taft also said he’s happy with the contractor’s projected 52 to 60 week construction timeline, which if no delays occur could have the centre ready to be opened in summer 2017, several months ahead of the targeted fall 2017 opening.

This is a momentous decision for this council, this town and this valley, said councillor Greg Anderson, adding that the employment generated by the construction will also be a boon for Invermere. It’s going to put a lot of people to work at a time when we really need it.

Council voted unanimously to award the contract to T.A. Rendek.