City council has little appetite for a staff recommendation to move toward completely replacing the aging building – at a price tag of some $25 million. Instead they will look into seismic upgrades and improving accessibility for the aging structure. (File photo)

Council balks at call for new White Rock city hall

Staff to investigate options for seismic upgrade, improved accessibility

White Rock councillors who received a seismic report on city hall Monday night showed little appetite for a staff recommendation to move toward completely replacing the aging building – at a price tag of some $25 million.

After extensive discussion they opted instead to support a motion from Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who asked staff to come up with estimates for a new consultant study focused on making the existing building safer and more habitable.

Sole dissenting vote came from Coun. Anthony Manning, who argued that a seismic retrofit – which the report, from engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon, priced at $1.8 million – would be “throwing good money after bad” since the whole building will soon need to be replaced.

But Kristjanson and other councillors agreed with Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, who said that a $25 million project to replace city hall and upgrade the civic precinct was beyond the current council’s mandate and would “call for an election and for candidates to campaign on it.”

Among options for the existing city hall council is prepared to examine – as well as seismic improvements – are the construction of ramps and installation of an elevator to make the building more accessible to all members of the public. Discussions about replacing the nearly 60-year-old structure have been ongoing for nearly 20 years.

The primary concerns with the current structure, outlined in Gordon’s report, are the cramped space for city staff, its ability to withstand an earthquake, and accessibility challenges.

Options presented to councillors included doing a seismic retrofit; a partial seismic retrofit; renting commercial office space; relocating staff to other city-owned buildings; and building a new city hall either alone or with partners.

Gordon recommended that a consultant be hired to develop, evaluate and assess feasibility options for a future city hall and that council endorse the development of a five-year implementation plan.

The report said a study of city hall had rated it as a “high-risk” building, based on seismic retrofit guidelines.

“This building could fail from the ground motion predicted for a 100-year return period earthquake,” the report noted.

“Given the growing needs of the City, seismically retrofitting City Hall may not offer the best value. It is recommended that a consultant be retained to develop options and provide a feasibility study for the future of City Hall and a 5-year implementation plan that would include the civic precinct,” the report added.

– files from Aaron Hinks

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