Wednesday, October 09, 2013

'Money Pit' Concerns Raised At Council

Wall & Brick Repair Budget Jumps $34,700 

Nanaimo Ratepayers Association president, Mr. Jim Taylor appeared before Nanaimo City Council to voice the association’s concerns over funding for Nanaimo Centre Stage at 25 Victoria Road. The association is not opposed to supporting the arts and culture community in Nanaimo but have serious concerns about the potential final cost to taxpayers for renovation of this building.

The city purchased the building a number of years ago for approximately $500,000 and since then the building is being used by several arts groups in Nanaimo.

An engineer’s report in 2011 identified an estimated $922,000 in building envelope work which needs to be done and included the caution that this does not address hazardous material removal or seismic upgrades to current standards.

The Nanaimo Ratepayers are concerned that without knowing the cost for structural repairs or hazardous material removal there is no way of knowing what the total end cost will be to taxpayers for this building. If seismic upgrades are necessary it is conceivable this renovation could easily cost $2,000,000 or possibly more, as anyone who has done a building renovation is aware, once you start a reno you don’t know what you will get into before you are done.

In March of this year city council voted to spend $160,000 replacing siding on the end of the building facing Nicol Street, and also repair some loose brick on the same side. There were concerns about public safety which could have been addressed for less costly options but complete replacement was council’s choice.

At the Oct. 7 council meeting, staff were recommending council approve the addition of another $34.700 as a contingency for this project, bringing the total cost to $194,700 to just replace some siding and loose brickwork.

Mr. Taylor pointed out that spending $200,000 now on a building with an unknown total cost was simply a poor use of tax dollars and was not demonstrating prudence or due diligence on council’s part. He urged council to approve less costly safety mitigation measures and determine what the total end cost of this renovation will be. At that time council would be in a position to decide if this community asset will actually be worth what it will cost to upgrade.

The comparison to the old city annex was made, which saw millions of tax dollars spent, only to be abandoned when it became evident the cost of seismic upgrades were simply too high. That building was sold to a private concern for the sum of $1.00. A scenario the Ratepayers don’t wish to see repeated at 25 Victoria Road.

Council passed a motion which referred this matter back to staff, asking them to prepare a more comprehensive estimate of the total costs of a complete repair to this building.

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