Letter: ‘No’ to West Kelowna city hall is a rejection of the costs

[A 'No' vote is] not a rejection of a new city hall, nor a rejection of…an ideal cultural centre, which Westbank already is.

To the editor:

The No side [to build a community hall/civic centre in Westbank] has a number of key planks to the overwhelming opposition the alternative approval process revealed. They are not a rejection of a new city hall, nor a rejection of the concept of Westbank district and community being an ideal cultural centre, which it already is.

It is a rejection of the costs, size, 3P partnership, failure to follow the city’s own consultant’s recommendations of a much more modest project and the distance from other established districts and communities.

A vote against the proposal should be made for the following reasons.

 

1 Excess cost of project

a. The city received a report from Mr. Huggett September 24, 2013 specifying it needed 23,000 sq ft of office space to meet the government office standards

b. Future need estimated as 10,000 sq ft when the city grew 50 per cent

c. The cost estimate (23,000 sq ft) in his report was $6.5 million

d. Why are we building to the maximum and not to our needs with room for additional space to be added in the future?

e. Why is the city proposing going from 12,500 sq ft and two portables to 32,215 sq ft?

f.   Why are we going from $6.5 million to $15 million plus?

g.  Road sewer, water, gas and sidewalk upgrades needed just to serve this property are not priced into the project total cost

 

2.  Civic centre excessive costs:

a. The building costs are greatly increased because the city is providing space of 330 sq ft for every staff member. This is an artificial space requirement, developed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats, and exceeds the space most private sector office workers get by about 50 per cent. Surely this indicates a Rolls Royce if not a Taj Mahal

b. By reducing the space per person by 20 per cent it would cut 5,000 to 6,000 sq ft and save $1 million.

c.  By letting the recreation department remain in the Cameron Street location, (like the fire department management is in a fire hall) cut 3,000 sq ft and save another $500,000.

 

3.  Location:

a.  There is no guarantee that the city hall in the proposed site will generate any other new development in the Westbank district, only a hope and speculation that it will.

b. The site zoned residential across the street from active agriculture lands in the ALR

c.  Extreme pressure to develop ARL lands would likely follow this proposal is passed

d. The major premise of developing the community of Westbank into the business and cultural centre of West Kelowna was predicated on the highway changing from a couplet to Dobbin Road freeing Main Street for future pedestrian friendly development. The province has rejected that concept

e. The major business, financial and retail centre serving the city have moved to WFN lands

f.   The city’s remaining goal is cultural development in the Westbank area like:

i. Museums

ii. Farmers market

iii. Public park and gardens

iv. Open air event centre like skating

 

4.  Alternative Locations:

The city, in its information pages, claim there is no suitable land owned by the city that could be used.

Alternatives are:

i. The city works yard on Bartley Road (next to Brookhaven Care Centre) could be moved to the new works yard also on Bartley Road. The old site offers more than enough area and could include a park on the creek as well as ample space for public and staff parking both on site and on the road allowance.

ii. The parcel of land where the portables and short term parking are at the recreation site could be used

iii. present site of the Museum and Chamber could work

iv. Perhaps the site of the seniors centre, if it moved to the Cameron Street centre, where it would be central to all of the City of West Kelowna seniors

v. A building suspended like a bridge over the existing Cameron Street building would work (if the foundation of it is not sufficient to bear additional storeys)

vi. There are likely other lands in the city inventory that could be explored.

5.  Financial reserve prudence:

 

a. If in March 2016 we needed the reserves left after borrowing $10.5 million, why do we not need the same reserves in August 2016?

b. Our General Reserves are $4.6 million, Municipal Facilities Reserves are $1.8 million totaling $6.4 million, less this proposal $8.1 million the reserve shortfall is $1.7 million

c.  All other reserves are restricted and designated for other projects

d. In light of the entire major planned infrastructure ahead, what happens if one of the other projects is pushed to urgent, where will the money come from?

e. It is not safe or responsible to pull $8.1 million from our dwindling emergency reserves for a supersized city hall.

 

6.  3P partnerships:

a. this is proposed as a private-public partnership (3P). 3P agreements often favour the developer at the expense and/or dissatisfaction work for the government involved

b. Ontario’s Auditor General found that 3P partnerships cost the government 16 per cent more than doing it themselves, and calls 3P economic rationale to be “junk science”. (Jon Christoff letter Aug. 28)

 

7.  The developer:

a.  The city is short of quality housing and the developer has the support of the city to build apartments on the site

b. A city centre plaza with residential, commercial, office space and cultural buildings and space with parking is very attractive

c.  The city is waiving the development cost charges (bylaw 0179) as an added incentive

d. They have an anchor tenant in Interior Health

e. This project could proceed without city hall

 

8.  Ignoring the alternative approval process vote against this proposal:

a.  Council rejected the voice of over 4,000 citizens by:

i. Retaining the same location, 3P partnership, and no concept change

ii. Re-tooling the financing using reserves needed for real emergencies

iii. Not reducing the size of the building to their own consultant, Mr. Huggett’s recommendation of 23,000 sq ft

iv. Not reducing the total expenditure, and

v. Not presenting an alternative or different city-owned site.

b. Those No votes were against the obvious excessive cost, excess space, 3P partnership and decentralized location proposed.

 

Please think responsibly and vote No on Sept. 17.

Doug Waines, West Kelowna

 

Note to the editor: The City of West Kelowna last week shut down the web pages which contained links to the historical events which I used for research, and I was unable to recheck my statistics. (If [the shut down] was only to my IP address or the entire page is unknown.)

Working West Kelowna city link cite: Vote Yes and West Kelowna Civic Centre Project