Renovations to what may become the future home of White Rock council have been approved.
City council last week gave unanimous support to directing staff proceed with $200,000 in upgrades to 1174 Fir St., the former home of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
The city bought the building for $1.6 million in 2010, completing the municipality’s ownership of the entire block occupied by its civic, police, fire and library services.
Since taking full possession of the building in February 2012, it has largely been used for storage.
Staff looked into the cost of upgrading the building for council and community use in response to a motion last month by Coun. Helen Fathers.
At the May 27 council meeting, city manager Dan Bottrill noted most of what needs doing – including new carpets, doors, plumbing and fixtures – is cosmetic.
The funds to do it would be redirected from work that had been identified for the existing council chambers and city hall lobby, he said.
Coun. Al Campbell described it as “the right thing to do.”
He criticized Coun. Louise Hutchinson as uninformed when she described the decision as “unilateral.”
“This hasn’t just landed on the table tonight,” Campbell said. “We’ve had several meetings about this. A lot of work has gone into it and had you been here, you might’ve had a different opinion.”
Hutchinson was absent from city meetings in April due to vacation.
Coun. Larry Robinson described the cost-benefit of moving ahead with the renovations as “better than a building sitting there rotting.”
Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted a decision must still be made as to whether council will actually move house. Without a firm call on that, financial services director Sandra Kurylo recommended holding off on $95,000 in audio-video and web-streaming work at the site. Both are only needed if council moves in, she said.
Baldwin said without a decision on where council will meet, staff also cannot complete designs for the future use of the existing chambers.
“Staff need a decision. We’re in a bit of a standstill,” he said.
Coun. Grant Meyer told Peace Arch News he only supported the renovations once a commitment to move council in was taken off the table. He said he’d rather see the facility rented or leased out, so the city can get a return on its investment.
Proceeding with work on either building without knowing their intended use is “kind of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.
Kurylo recommended funds for the work be taken from contingency. The work is expected to proceed this summer.