White Rock council votes to move chambers

White Rock mayor opposes "shuffling off" the symbol of democracy to another facility.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin says moving council chambers out of city hall “should not happen.”

And while two of his fellow council members agreed with the sentiment during discussions last week, the move is a go.

July 15, council voted 4-3 in favour of a motion by Coun. Helen Fathers to shift the chambers into the city-owned building at 1174 Fir St. Fathers first suggested the move in April, reasoning in part that it would create better space in city hall for other departments.

In supporting the motion, Coun. Larry Robinson said the Fir Street building – purchased by the city in 2010 – should be used.

“We have a building sitting over there doing nothing,” Robinson said.

He agreed that city staff would benefit from more space.

In arguing against the move, Baldwin – who temporarily gave up his seat as chair of the meeting in order to speak – described council chambers as a symbol of democracy that “should not be shuffled off to another facility.”

He also cited costs associated with the decision, which he said bump the estimated cost of renovating the Fir Street building by more than $100,000.

Last month, city staff estimated upgrades – deemed largely cosmetic – to the building to accommodate community and temporary staff use would cost $200,000. That figure was exclusive of work and equipment that would be needed if council chambers were to be relocated.

According to a staff report, the cost of renovating the Fir Street building to include council chambers would be about $294,000, with annual operating costs estimated at $37,000. If the chambers stay at city hall, upgrades are estimated at $184,000, with $12,000 for operating costs.

Director of financial services Sandra Kurylo notes in the report that a decision on where council chambers would be located was needed in order to finalize design and tendering for a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system planned for city hall this fall.

Additional costs of reconfiguring the existing chambers are not included in the figures, Kurylo adds; neither is the cost of possibly installing an elevator, which would add about $400,000 to the tab.