The Town of Lake Cowichan received just one tender proposal for the retrofit and expansion of Town Hall and it was for more money than some anticipated.
CopCan Civil Limited Partnership, the same company that built the Meade Creek Recycling facility in the spring of 2017, submitted a proposal of $2,695,000 for the Town Hall project, with a 10-month completion timeline and the agreement to look for cost-saving measures where available.
In a special council meeting on Nov. 30, town CAO Joseph Fernandez gently scolded council for not being better prepared financially.
“We’ve given lip service to the need for an asset management plan and lately the grant applications that we’ve looked at have required that we show evidence that we’ve done exactly that and we’ve not been able to do that,” Fernandez said. “I think we need to be looking at that…we need to get on that sooner rather than later.”
He said that councils of the past have not been successful in bolstering the town’s reserve funds and they’re paying for it now.
“A good example is what we are facing now, the issue with the municipal hall,” he said. “We have not put enough away. We should have at least been putting $100,000 a year away and we would have had a fairly substantial amount now, but we, as usual when it comes to budgeting, we always like to make sure that the tax increases are kept low.”
In the budget process, Fernandez said this year they picked an increase they thought was reasonable “and we worked around it to make everything else fit and we even had to take monies out of surplus just to make it work,” he explained. “I think we should start thinking beyond the current year, I think we should be looking long term.”
Fernandez said they’re now faced with one tender and cost increases that will make this project more difficult to pay for.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that we have a bit of money in our surplus funds and gas tax money, this project probably wouldn’t happen,” he admitted. “So it’s really up to you at this point to either approve or disapprove or re-tender the project.
“There may be a requirement to look at tax increases to fund some other capital projects we may have,” Fernandez added.
Coun. Tim McGonigle reminded council that Lake Cowichan government officials have never had a proper town hall.
“I don’t want to re-tender this,” he said. “You have to remember that the Town of Lake Cowichan has never, I’ll say it again, never had a municipal building. We were in the Mildred Child [Annex] to begin with, the fire department was in the facility that we currently reside in as a co-resident. This would be a dedicated space that’s accessible to all with dedicated accessible washrooms. I like the concept on paper. Now I want to see it in bricks and mortar.”
Coun. Carolyn Austin added that a generator would be on site so the building would be able to act as an emergency centre should it be required.
“None of us like to spend that extra money,” she said noting prices are going up across the board. “I know it’s tough, I know it’s hard but I’m hoping we have enough to complete this and I’m hoping we can get this going as soon as possible.”
McGonigle added that be believes CopCan to be quite capable but was “a little surprised that there was only one tender.”
He reaffirmed his desire to stop delaying the project.
“At any time in the past 15 to 18 years, or however long that Building Reserve Fund has been implemented, we could have made those changes to increase the funds put into that. We chose not to for whatever reason and that leaves us in the predicament that we have now,” McGonigle said. “I don’t have a problem moving forward as it is the No. 1 priority in our strategic plan… and we were hoping to have that accommodated…before our term was finished to pass on that facility to the next council that does come in.”
Before the council voted to accept the bid, with only Coun. Lorna Vomacka opposed, Mayor Bob Day spoke: “For what it’s worth, and I’m not saying this just to get this project going, CopCan is first class. There’s going to be no monkeying around with this. It’s going to be done properly.”