Mapleton officials irked at rejection of funding application for arena upgrades

Mayor says Infrastructure Canada using outdated definition of 'shovel ready'

MAPLETON – Officials here are upset the township’s latest application for Infrastructure Canada funding to upgrade the PMD Arena and Community Centre was rejected and are seeking to take their case directly to the minister in charge.

The proposed project, which includes a multi-court gymnasium with an elevated walking track and new entrance areas has now been rejected twice for funding through the federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Fund, in both cases for not being “shovel ready.”

“We sent a letter off to the minister (Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser) really objecting to being declined based on that we’re not shovel ready, which we are,” said Mayor Gregg Davidson in reaction to a letter from Infrastructure Canada received at the Feb. 27 council meeting.

“We’re just using a different type of shovel ready than what they have in their guidelines … We’re using a system that is financially helpful to rural communities be able to do this for a low amount,” added Davison.

“Your application did not sufficiently demonstrate that your project’s level of readiness meets the requirements of the program,” states a letter from Paul Loo, director general of Infrastructure Canada’s General Resilient and Innovative Communities Directorate.

The mayor was undeterred by the letter’s assertions that assessment results are final.

“Projects that do not meet program requirements cannot be approved by Infrastructure Canada or the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities,” Loo stated.

Davidson said CIMA, the township’s engineering consultant on the project, has “come up with an alternative way to be shovel ready.

“It’s been explained to them in phone calls and now the minister has been asked to look at this on our behalf, because we think that we are shovel ready and we think that we shouldn’t have been discontinued because of their philosophy of what shovel-ready is … they haven’t changed that in decades,” the mayor stated.

Mapleton CAO Manny Baron explained the consultant’s proposal involves using a “progressive,” rather than a “traditional” design build model.

Information provided by CIMA explains a traditional design build model involves separate procurements for engineering and construction services. The engineering service provider carries out detailed design resulting in a contract tender package with individual contract bid items. 

By contrast, progressive design build is described as “a collaborative approach between the owner and its contracting partner” and is delivered under a single contract. Progressive models are intended to “identify, mitigate, and appropriately share” design, schedule and pricing risk through two-phases of project delivery.

The first phase covers development of designs to advanced levels that allow for more efficient and accurate pricing and the negotiation of a fixed amount. As the design progresses through phase one, progressive estimates are prepared for work packages through price negotiations of competitive bids from key trades and material and equipment vendors. By packaging the work, construction can begin early for completed work packages, allowing for a quicker procurement process that shortens the overall project schedule.

The second phase covers the completion of the design (if not completed in phase one), construction and commissioning.

To achieve the ministry’s definition of shovel ready would mean spending $400,000 on the proposed $10 million project before submitting a funding application, said Davidson.

“Which to us is five per cent of our taxes,” he pointed out.

Using the progressive approach, he noted, pre-application costs would be around $50,000

“Mr. Baron and I are well prepared to drive down to Toronto and have a face to face and discuss this,” said Davidson, adding the township has been working with Perth-Wellington MP John Nater and Kitchener-Conestogo MP Tim Louis in an effort to get the minister’s ear.

The township originally applied for the funding in June of 2021 and learned just over a year later it was not successful in obtaining funds.

In January of 2023 council directed the CIMA to “update, enhance and resubmit” Mapleton’s application for the program by the deadline for the program’s 2023 intake.

Under the program, the federal and provincial governments fund 80 per cent of the cost of qualifying projects up to $10 million.