EDITORIAL: Saanich grapples with future of works yard

Laying the foundation for the community’s future is one of the most important tasks faced by municipal government. And here in Saanich, that future may be coming sooner than many realize and sooner than the district is prepared for.

Saanich council received a draft report earlier this month on the state of major municipal facilities, and the news was not good. The report identifies significant deficiencies at both the Elk Road fire hall and Public Safety Building housing Saanich Police, warranting the need for replacement. But the future of Saanich’s public works yard is the most pressing concern facing staff and council.

The McKenzie Avenue facility is the top priority for replacement, as the report cited “inadequate safety and operational deficiencies” including the lack of fire-supressing sprinklers. “A fire at the public works building would be catastrophic,” noted the report.

While no one disputes the need for replacement of the nearly 60-year-old facility, the prospect of constructing a new works yard won’t be easy, or cheap.

“I’m scared and terrified [about] what is under the ground. The amount of remediation that is going to be required there is going to be problematic,” said Coun. Colin Plant, who called for more information about costs as the process moves forward.

One way to mitigate the costs is to move the public works yard from its present location in the 1000 block of McKenzie Avenue, which could attract considerable interest as a high-density development.

“Certainly moving it [the public works yard] to another location presents some challenges, given the size of the facility, the strategic location of it, and the services delivered out of it,” said Harley Machielse, Saanich’s director of engineering.

Finding a suitable future location for the works yard should be priority No. 1 when the plan moves forward in the new year following the current public input process. That decision will likely have as big an impact on the future of Saanich as any the current council has dealt with.

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