Letters to the Editor

Letter: Seniors facility not meet promises made

Open letter to Kelowna City Council:

When the move from the Water Street Seniors Centre (WSSC) surfaced in 2004-05, Mr. Oddliefson, a delegation member from Kelowna City Hall, assured the WSSC Society that the new building would be a bigger and better multi-use structure for seniors.

The ‘In Rooms’ usable space in the initial March 3, 2011, version of the Parkinson Activity Centre (PAC) was decreased by 2,181 sq. ft.; the main hall reduced by 959 sq. ft.; and the billiards/cribbage rooms slashed by 576 sq. ft.

Dozens of WSSC members wrote letters of concern to City Hall. City council recognized the inadequacies of the initial plan and increased the building budget to $4,077,000. This was sufficient to construct an adequately sized building. Yet, the In Rooms usable space in the second June 23, 2011, version of the PAC was trimmed down compared to the available space at the Water Street Seniors Centre.

I am convinced the second version of the PAC was approved by City Hall due to misleading information. A July 6, 2011, memorandum, re: the PAC from K. Bouw, architectural planner, to the city manager reads in part: “The WSSCS Relocation Committee has endorsed the layout and design of the Building.”

But the two duly elected relocation committee members with more than 70 years construction experience did not endorse this plan.

The July 14, 2011, article in the Capital News records that Ms. Bouw indicated that the “Revised plan now calls for a facility 2,000 square feet bigger than the one is replacing.”

The gross footage of the PAC is 13,152 sq. ft. and the WSSC was 11,423 square feet—a difference of 1,729 sq. ft.

The PAC embodies the following space absorbers that were non-existent in the single-storey WSSC: two sets of stairs, 700 sq. ft.; solar chimney, 797 sq. ft.; elevator, 150 sq. ft.; and many more hallways, 287 sq. ft. That totals 1,934 sq. ft.

The space absorbers occupy 205 sq. ft. more than the PAC’s square footage increase.

In Rooms usable space is decreased by about 205 sq. ft. compared to the former WSSC.

During construction, the PAC could have been expanded by about 10 per cent at a cost of about two per cent of the $4,077,000 building budget by increasing the size of the second storey to mirror the size of the main floor.

On July 28, 2011, city representatives declared this expansion to be impossible because the budget was “too tight.”

The winning tender’s actual cost was $2,931,000. The city overseers still would not consider implementing the above cost-effective expansion.

It appears that they didn’t realize that Kelowna’s senior population is growing with the replacement building needing more In Room usable space that was available at the WSSC. Was there no concern in constructing and financing a building that would be too small in short order?

To meet the desires of the WSSC membership for an adequately sized and functional PAC, the two relocation committee members requested the following PAC weaknesses be considered and discussed: Kitchen layout, more information on the suspect mechanical systems, increase in the square footage of the second floor to match the main floor, moving the main entrance to lead to the lobby and desk instead of to the dining area; the PA system, etc.

No responses were received resulting in no requested changes being made. In my judgement, stonewalling was the city’s “modus operandi.”

Yet, city representatives maintained, as quoted in the March 7 edition of the Capital News, that the PAC was “designed in consultation with local seniors groups.” Were these purported claims by City Hall not deceptive?

Having been made aware of the building budget surplus and the PAC’s shortcomings listed in the preceding paragraph, many taxpayers wrote City Hall to appeal that these shortcomings be addressed before tax dollars were used inappropriately. In a January 5, 2012, email from the mayor’s office, these concerned taxpayers were labelled as “a few dissenters.” Is this not insulting?

When the “tight budget” scenario was proved untrue, it was replaced by a “sign off” alibi in response to the requested improvements for PAC. Starting in January, 2012, the routine response form City Hall contained this statement: “The Relocation Committee on behalf of the Water Street Seniors Centre signed off on the final plan for the facility.”

The two elected relocation committee members did not sign off on the plan. The city’s design and construction manager was not aware of a sign-off document nor has City Hall exhibited a copy of the sign-off.

Moreover, the second vice-president and secretary of the WSSCS wrote in a letter to the undersigned that “the executive did not endorse the plan…Furthermore, they were never requested to sign off on the plan.” Who is telling the truth?

Without a vote at the 2011 WSSC annual general meeting, the “seniors” designation was eliminated in naming the replacement building. Was the omission fair in view of the city’s 2004-05 pledge to construct a seniors’ multi-use facility?

During November and December of 2012, the temperature in the main hall of PAC was too cold for participating comfortably in Saturday afternoon bridge games. At the January 5, 2013, game, most players needed winter coats with warm boots a helpful second.

The PA system was not functional. Hundreds of bridge players opted for a warmer venue with a working PA system. Is the PAC’s heating system unable to adequately heat the building during the cold winter months? Why was the PA system not fixed within a day or so? It was unworkable as of April 2013.

Other groups that held meetings at the WSSC have also vacated the PAC. These include the Kelowna Newcomers Club, 200 members, the Kelowna +3 Friendship Club, 250 members, and the Kelowna Garden Club, 200 members. It is ironic that hundreds of bridge players and the above 650 taxpayers have had to seek alternative accommodations despite partly financing the PAC.

In my view, the PAC management has a monopoly over all activities. It has been proven that the combined Monday, Wednesday and Saturday annual Christmas bridge potluck dinner and subsequent bridge game requires a time-frame of about 6 1/2 hours, i.e. 11 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

The PAC management deemed that 4 1/4 hours was ample time for these events. Such dogmatic restrictions might be acceptable for school children but is distasteful for mature seniors. The concept that management always knows best can quickly wipe out decades of cooperative co-existence.

The acoustics at the PAC are very unsatisfactory with a need for overhauling. Did City Hall issue a building permit without consulting an acoustical engineer? Does the architect bear responsibility for this flaw or will the taxpayers be harnessed with and expensive repair bill? This repair may cost two or three times more than the proper original acoustic installation.

The 40-year-old floor at the Water Street Seniors Centre was in good condition when it was demolished. The PAC floor may need replacement after six months.

In a March 7, 2012, edition of the Capital News, the article stated a city representative considered repairs by an unnamed contractor to be a “warranty item.” Was the current floor in the PAC main hall devised by city staff who lacked sufficient knowledge and experience to have it installed properly?

On November 29, 2012, the Capital News posed the question: Are you satisfied with the performance of the new city council since being elected a year ago?” Seventy-five per cent of the respondents said, “No.” There must be good reason for this negative collective opinion.

If the facts articulated in this letter represent “business as usual” at City Hall, I think the taxpayers should be concerned. Maybe they should ask these questions: Did City Hall exercise an abuse of power in the planning of the PAC? Should there be an independent inquiry into the PAC fiasco?

I would not be surprised if some city councillors were/are unaware of the facts contained in this letter.

In my judgement, the mayor’s office should be censuring untruthfulness, demanding better performance from city planners and insisting they refrain from conveying misleading information to city council.

It is unacceptable that a new building be in need of major repairs just after opening. I think that those responsible should be held accountable.

As a taxpayer, I request to be provided honest, unbiased answers to all the questions raised in this letter. All taxpayers have the right to be apprised of accurate, truthful information regarding the shortcomings associated with the Parkinson Activity Centre.

Frank Missan,

Kelowna

 

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