The saga of the city hall renovations continues.
Revelstoke council spent a good thirty minutes discussing the $1.735 million project at special budget meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 3.
The meeting lasted for three hours, and a good number of spending items were discussed, but it was the ongoing renovations — presented on page one of the capital plan — that received the most debate.
The plan lays out the budget for the city hall renovations over the next four years:
— In 2015: $60,000 to finish the exterior work and $340,000 for the interior renovations.
— In 2016: $540,000 for the exterior stucco replacement.
— In 2017: $260,000 for the elevator, $225,000 to move council chambers into city hall, and $85,000 for council furnishings.
— In 2018: $225,000 to renovate the finance department.
After a brief introduction to the plan by finance director Graham Inglis, council delved into the proposed spending.
“What sort of planning process have we gone through so far in the city hall renovations?” asked councillor Aaron Orlando, specifically referring to the elevator and moving council chambers.
Inglis responded: “It was part of an overall plan to improve customer service in city hall and bring council chambers back into that environment so we can relieve ourselves of paying rent (for council chambers).”
Coun. Linda Nixon, the only survivor from the previous council explained that the elevator was the result of a provincial government white paper that emphasized the need for public buildings to be accessible.
“And affordable,” interjected Mayor Mark McKee.
The meat of discussion, which was dominated by Orlando, McKee and councillor Connie Brothers, came down to the fact the new council wants to learn more about the planning process behind the city hall renovations before moving forward with more than a million in spending over the next four years.
“These are big ticket items,” said Brothers. “I’m concerned I have to vote on this when I don’t have a handle on what these projects are, what they involve, whether or not we truly need them, and whether or not they’re a priority. We may need them, but we have so many other issues to deal with.”
One thing that was acknowledged was the need to finish the downstairs renovations at city hall. The rest of the interior renovations were pushed back.
“For 2015 we have to put something in the budget to finish the renovation project and get city hall functioning the way it’s supposed to be,” said McKee. “Then council is going to have a look with staff at what’s going to be our priorities over the next five years.”
In the end, council voted to push back the elevator, moving council chambers and finance department renovations by a year each so they could have a chance to look at the planning and necessity of each project.
The city hall renovations produced the biggest discussion at the budget meeting, but it wasn’t the only item councillors questioned. One thing Inglis stressed was that council would only be committing the city to spending for 2015 when they vote on the budget. The spending projects identified for the next four years were there to give council an idea of what was coming up.
“You’re only committing to 2015 when you adopt the budget later on,” he said. “When we come to do the 2016-20 plan, it’s councils prerogative to change the budget.”
Here’s a rundown on some of the other spending items in the capital plan that council questioned:
— Council asked about IT spending, such as $110,000 budgeted this year to purchase and install new finance software. Inglis said the current software was very old. “It works, but there’s better products out there that can help us provide better information to our customers and other departments.”
— There were questions about spending $75,000 on permit tracking software for the planning department. Thomas said it would improve customer service by helping city keep track of all permits that come into city hall. Right now, everything is tracked by hand.
— Council asked about replacing one of the city’s fire trucks for $450,000. Fire chief Rob Girard said Engine #2 is 30 years old and is the last truck to be replaced.”It’s been in the plan since I’ve been the chief,” he said, adding he would be bringing a business case to council later this year.
— Connie Brothers asked about spending $60,000 in 2016 on a new sub-division bylaw. Dean Strachan, the manager of development services, said the current bylaw was old and difficult for developers to work with. “I’d be keen on working on that sooner, I’m just not sure I’d have the time to do that,” he said.
— Some of the spending on the RCMP detachment was questioned. Inglis said those projects were requested by the RCMP. Two of the requests, $32,000 for new workstations and $15,000 for flooring, were pushed back to 2016.
— A motion to defer a hazardous building assessment of the courthouse was defeated but council did vote to defer exterior lighting upgrades by a year.
— The capital plan includes $500,000 to fix the Mutas/Victoria intersection in 2016, and $400,000 to fix the Townley/Fourth/Victoria intersection in 2017. Thomas said he was working with stakeholders — the Ministry of Transportation on the former and CP Rail on the latter — on solutions. “We need to keep trying to find a solution that best meets the expectations of all the stakeholders,” he said.
— The bucket truck, which is used for things like installing street banners and replacing streetlights is up for replacement. Coun. Orlando asked if that was necessary. Darren Komonoski, the public works manager, said the truck was costing almost as much to repair as it was worth, adding he was looking to see if it was worth contracting out that work instead of buying a new truck.
— The city plans on spending $130,000 on Mackenzie Avenue streetlights from Third to Eighth. Thomas told council the lights aren’t grounded and pose a public safety hazard where someone could receive a 120 volt shock in the worst case scenario.
— The arena roof replacement is in the budget for 2017 at a cost of $7 million. Mayor McKee said the whole building should be looked at before making a decision on the roof. “There’s no point putting new roof if the building is falling apart,” he said. Laurie Donato, the director of parks, recreation and culture, said she could come back to council with more information on arena upgrades.
— One item that was moved forward was $380,000 for water line upgrades to the Hill Crest Hotel. Thomas said the work is being spurred both by public safety needs (the fire hydrant closest to the hotel is downhill and far away) and the upcoming construction of the new Mount Begbie Brewery nearby. The item was budgeted for 2016, but Thomas said there were advantages to doing the work this year, and it could be done for about $220,000 if moved forward.
— Council voted to add the Big Eddy Waterworks upgrades to the financial plan, even if the total cost and timing is not yet know. The costs will be borne by Big Eddy property owners.
— $1.2 million is budgeted in 2019 to upgrade the sewage treatment plant. Thomas said this was in the budget as a placeholder. A bigger focus is to reduce storm and groundwater infiltration into the sewer system, which would help increase the plant’s capacity.
A few other big projects weren’t discussed but are in the capital plan:
— The Farwell neighbourhood is scheduled for a major re-work in 2017 and 2018 at a cost of about $1.9 million.
— The water budget includes $1.6 million from 2017–19 to install water lines to the South Revelstoke area. Thomas said this may be a joint project with the regional district.
— There is $615,000 budgeted in 2019 to replace the filters at the Greeley water treatment plant.
— There is $800,000 budgeted in 2018 to replace the Downie Force Main.