A risk of “severe personal injury” to those visiting White Rock Pier will be addressed.
City council Monday voted 4-2 in favour of awarding a $414,900-contract to replace corroding lamp standards and arches along the heritage landmark – despite opinion that the non-safety related work should be deferred to save funds for more-pressing projects.
“I absolutely agree that we need to address all of the safety issues – that goes without saying,” Mayor Catherine Ferguson told Peace Arch News after the vote, in explaining why she opposed the work.
“I would have preferred that we wait and make sure that we were clear on our priorities.”
PAN reported earlier this week on concerns surrounding the deteriorating equipment, after a report by the city’s director of engineering noted the lamp standards are in such poor shape, they may fall in inclement weather or as a result of vandalism. Lighting in the arches is listed as an electrocution hazard.
Director Rob Thompson reiterated the urgency to council Monday, sharing photos depicting the extent of decay to the lamp standards.
“You can put an object through those holes at the base,” he said.
“A large object.”
Thompson said the problem was discovered during an effort to find a use for Recreational Infrastructure Canada (RInC) grant money that was approved in early 2010 for improvements to the pier’s structure and lighting. Some of the money went to a pier assessment that was completed about two months ago, which identified a need to replace a damaged crossbeam and five to seven piles – issues that didn’t warrant immediate concern, Thompson said.
After a commitment to effect that work by the end of August could not be met, RInC officials extended the deadline until the end of October. It was while preparing a report on improving the lighting that the extent of the problem was realized. Thompson said for safety reasons, he ordered the pier lights turned off last Saturday.
“They’re not safe for city staff, they’re not safe for citizens to be in close proximity to,” he said. “Yes, (the report) does say ‘electrocution’.”
Thompson presented council with two options: replace only the lamp standards, at a cost of $214,075, or replace both the lamp standards and the arches, for about $200,000 more.
Ferguson suggested doing what needs to be done now and waiting on what doesn’t, however, Couns. Mary-Wade Anderson, Grant Meyer, Al Campbell and Lynne Sinclair supported moving ahead with the full project.
Prior to the vote, Thompson cautioned that if the contract wasn’t approved that night, the city would lose the remaining RInC funds and have to repay what has been expended so far.
The logic didn’t sit well with Ferguson, who told PAN she wants to ensure there is enough money in a pier-maintenance program to do structural work that arises. It is also unclear yet what costs of other key projects – such as upcoming work to stabilize the Marine Drive hump – will be, she said.
“I just would have liked to have had a closer look at things. It doesn’t have to be done all in one swoop.”
Financial services director Sandra Kurylo confirmed the project will eat into funds for other structural needs. She told council it will consume $211,000 of the $356,000 currently in the city’s undesignated capital reserve and nearly half of the $214,000 pier preservation reserve.
Deciding where to use the funds is “a matter of priorities,” Kurylo said.
Coun. Helen Fathers told PAN Tuesday she voted against the work largely because of how the situation was sprung on council.
“I was a bit shocked that all of a sudden that was the first thing I’d heard of it,” she said. “It felt a little bit rushed to me.”
Fathers suggested if the situation is as dire as was presented, “maybe we should be reviewing our structures a bit more often.”
The recommendations approved Monday include a request the project budget be increased by $311,378.
Thompson said the arches will be manufactured locally, and said consultation with museum officials led him to recommend a heritage theme. The new poles and arches will be marine-grade aluminum.
Ferguson criticized Thompson for taking the designs to museum officials before seeking council opinion and direction. In response, Thompson noted he wasn’t seeking approval of the designs, but rather input on the heritage aspect of the project.
Coun. Lynne Sinclair defended the move.
“The fact of the matter is if you hadn’t (gone to the museum), we would’ve sent you back to do it,” she said.