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Saanich faces uncertain costs over public works yard

Plans to redevelop Saanich’s parks and public works yard and Fire Hall N0. 2 are now formally underway after council unanimously approved the final version of the strategic facilities master plan.
Saanich’s parks and public works yard on McKenzie Avenue “warrants” replacement and council has formally tasked staff to develop options following passage of the Strategic Facilities Master Plan. Council has also instructed staff to develop scenarios for replacing Fire Hall 2 on Elk Lake Road.

Plans to redevelop Saanich’s parks and public works yard and Fire Hall N0. 2 are now formally underway after council unanimously approved the final version of the strategic facilities master plan.

It recommends the redevelopment of both facilities as the “highest priorities” for capital investments over the next 20 years.

The vote means that staff will now develop among other documents a formal business case for redeveloping both facilities with council set to receive this document in early 2019. Staff will also develop a five-year and a 10-year financial plan informed by the finding by the findings of the facilities report.

Arguably the most pressing questions concern the cost of redeveloping the parks and public works yard, as well as Fire Hall No. 2, which rank first and second among the public facilities that that warrant “replacement” according to the report.

Concerning the parks and public works yard, the report finds that current conditions of the facility pose a risk to service delivery. Identified “ inadequate safety and operational deficiencies” include among others the absence of fire-suppressing sprinklers and buildings that meet current building and seismic codes.

Warning against a culture of complacency, the report predicts serious consequences, should the status quo prevail. “For example, a fire at the public works building would be catastrophic,” it reads. As for Fire Hall No. 2, the report finds that it is too small to meet current and future needs.

But Stacy McGhee, program manager for strategic facilities planning, said various factors make it impossible to provide even the most preliminary cost figures. Costs are likely to be significant though for both facilities based on his presentation to council.

Discussing new developments elsewhere, McGhee showed council two illustrative samples of new public work facilities that would require additional scrutiny — the new facility in Surrey which cost $53 million to construct (based on 2014 figures) and the facility in downtown Vancouver that cost $22 million (based on 2004 figures).

While Saanich would likely not require a facility like the one in Surrey based on its needs, the Vancouver facility represents only half of the size of what Saanich would need, he said.

The price tag of the Vancouver facility might also be irrelevant. Accounting for inflation since 2004, the Vancouver facility would cost about 70 per cent more than it did in 2004 in today’s dollars — or about $37.4 million.

Funding for replacing the parks and public works yard would come from a combination of reserves, debt, grants and the private sector, he said.

Another key question concerns location. Chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson told the public that staff are exploring a number of options. They include moving the facility to another location, building a new facility at the existing location on McKenzie Avenue, or a combination of both.

Other questions also appear: what would happen to the current location of the parks and public works yard if it were to move to a new location? Could it be used for housing or other public facilities? What about environmental issues on the current site? The current facility opened in 1957 and partially stands on a peat bog. How might environmental issues yet to be discovered impact future uses? What would be the cost of remediation?

As for the cost of replacing Fire Hall No. 2, McGhee offered samples from View Royal, Central Saanich, Sidney, and Victoria that ranged from $5.7 million (View Royal, 2014) to $33 million (Victoria, 2018) with floor sizes varying significantly. Funding would come from reserves, debt and grants, he said.

While the current location of Fire Hall No. 2 on Elk Lake Road permits redevelopment on site, Saanich would also have to develop a plan to manage fire protection services from that location during any future re-development.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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