Councillor Tim McGonigle

Future of town hall in Lake Cowichan still up in the air

Inspection must be made before any purchase, Coun. Kristine Sandhu tells colleagues

What has happened to talks about upgrading the Lake Cowichan municipal hall or possibly moving it to Neva Road?

Councillors shared a little information before Christmas at their finance and administration committee meeting.

Engineers are looking at both the present structure on South Shore Road and the old Jehovah’s Witnesses hall on Neva Road, which is for sale, and which Mayor Rod Peters suggested during the election might provide a more cost-effective solution to the previously endorsed renovation of the present municipal facility.

“We’re asking that we get a costing on what we have to do over at the other building and what has to be done here and then see the price comparison on it,” he said, in answer to a question from the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

Council and staff, and a local realtor, held a walk-through of the Neva Road site on Nov. 26, which, Peters said, “went quite well. But, we’re looking at several options, so we don’t want to say anything about that yet. When we get the information back, then we’ll come up with a decision.”

Coun. Kristine Sandhu asked if there had been an actual inspection done on that building yet.

Peters told her that the town was waiting for the costing first, “then we’ll make a decision on whether or not to have an inspection of the hall.”

Sandhu pursued that subject.

“Do we not usually do an inspection to see the condition of the facility before we decide the layout of how we’d like it to be? Because right now they want us to sign a disclosure that we take it as is. I, for one, have said publicly that I will not support that,” she stated.

Coun. Tim McGonigle, the committee chair, said, “I think if and when it is purchased that will be the time for a hazmat assessment. Negotiations can transpire where disclosure can be part of the bargaining tools, where the disclosure may be afforded to us if we choose that route. Again, we’re looking at options not only there but here as well. I think we have to weigh the financial implications of both before moving forward with any decision, as you say. And part of that will be an assessment.”

Sandhu wasn’t finished, though.

“There is a difference between an assessment and an actual inspector going in, right? What was staff directed to do? I thought we had directed them to do an actual inspection of the facility. Mayor Peters has said it was taken right down to the studs [during renovation], but they’ve given the realtor no papers to show to any possible person who wants to buy it. It’s just: ‘It’s there, as is. If you want it, buy it.’ To me, we need to have somebody go in there and check the plumbing, the wiring, the basement.

“The basement is a confined space, because there are no windows down there, and there’s one way in, one way out. That’s problematic for staff. They wouldn’t be able to work down there. So, there are all sorts of things around the facility. We need to protect our finances and be responsible,” Sandhu said.

McGonigle explained, “If we should chose that route, that could be a condition of sale. I’m not saying that is the route we are taking. We’re still waiting for all the numbers to come back, and what the implications would be and then we’ll be able to make an informed decision on the matter when we have all the information.”

He warned against considering “just bits and pieces” but “information on both facilities and what the impact will be. It’s fortunate that there was foresight by previous councils to create a municipal building fund. That has accumulated significantly so that we have an option to look at these choices. Otherwise we would be looking perhaps at other options. Not tax increases, hopefully, but you would have to find some other avenue for those funds. We will have another $50K towards that in the next budget year because $50K per year is put into the municipal building fund. And that is not just for a municipal hall, that’s why it’s called the municipal building fund but we have to be quite clear that once it’s established for that, we can’t take that money and put it into the sewer, for instance.”

Sandhu then asked: “Right now, how much do we have in it?”

After a double check with town staff, McGonigle told her it is $1.2 million.

Sandhu still wanted more information.

“The previous councils approved the plans that are currently there. What was that cost?” she asked.

Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez replied: “We had different numbers on that.”

McGonigle then continued, “It did go out for tender and was above what we had anticipated it should be at, so we declined the tender at that time, and now we are looking at other options.”

He then told Sandhu that the last time it was sent out to tender was “about two years ago.”



lexi.bainas@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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