New city hall not needed

Editor:

Re: Action on new city hall ‘long overdue’, June 28.

Having worked for more than 40,000 hours in city hall, I am confident in stating there is no need for a new building. There is absolutely no doubt the building needs a major retrofit, but to tear down and replace a 60-year-old concrete building without any disclosed structural problems would be wasteful and unnecessary.

As noted in the article, the building was built in 1962.  However, what was not stated is that the building was originally designed as a multi-purpose civic facility.

When I first began working at the city in 1983, the population was around 14,000. Half of the ground floor was taken up by the RCMP and the other half was occupied by the court clerk, the sheriff’s office and the parole office. All of the city departments except for public works and administration worked out of the area presently reserved for the finance department. The photocopy room was the judges’ chambers, and the council chambers had just been cut in two. One half was reserved for council by night, and the courthouse by day; the other half housed the mayor, city manager and the administrative staff (as it does now).

Obviously, things have changed. The population has grown  and new departments have been created. The courts and RCMP have moved out. Building standards have changed.

Previous councils have denied it, but the city needs to put some money into new heating and ventilation systems, and a case could be made for an addition which should include an elevator.

But a new building? No way.

To build a new city hall with all the bells and whistles council is sure to want, a silver or gold LEED rating and the underground parking our bylaws require, could easily cost between $8 million to $10 million.

The building is well, if not ideally sited. It is part of a civic block and is extremely practical and convenient for the citizens and staff.

As to the notion that “a partnership could be reached with a developer” to help pay for the building – forget it. Six years ago, through negotiation with Bosa Properties, the city gained a replacement town centre and recreation facility, 50 underground parking stalls and $3.5 million cash in return for its acre of land in the town centre. Any thoughts of replicating that deal are nonsense.

Without a strategic and valuable piece of land to sell, any future “partnerships” that generate enough money to make a difference are going to have to be based on the city conceding some major rezoning benefits with densities well in excess of the council’s recently imposed limits on height and density.

The only way the city could finance a project of this magnitude has to involve a lot of borrowing. To borrow and spend millions for something that is not needed would be frivolous and irresponsible.

This is not how we should be managing our civic affairs.

Wayne Baldwin, White Rock

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