West Kelowna candidates discuss new city hall

This week learn about how your candidates feel about a new city hall in West Kelowna

Every week, during the run-up to the Oct. 20 election, the Capital News will ask municipal candidates a question about a local issue. For the full response, go to kelownacapnews.com and hit the election tab.

This week’s question is:“Does West Kelowna need a stand-alone city hall? If so how do you see making that happen?”

Rosalind Neis, council candidate

West Kelowna actually has a stand alone City Hall already, centrally located and ready for expansion. There are many people that believe that by buying land and spending millions of tax payer dollars on a new building in “downtown” West Kelowna that that will help revitalize that area.

Tax payer money is not for revitalization of specific areas of a community in my personal opinion, but rather tax payer money is for infrastructure needs and community safety for things such as; water and policing. Private investment and development should be encourage to revitalize areas that are of importance to a community. This was done by lowering DCC’s in the west bank town centre area

Most city halls provide nice office space for staff and are visited once a year by tax payers to pay their property tax bill. West Kelowna could have a very adequate and sufficient city hall by expanding in its current location, or even by building on land the city already owns an 11 acre works yard and will save the tax payers millions of dollars, and in doing so, we could use that savings to build a new community centre to replace the current city hall location – something that all citizens could utilize and benefit from.

Doug Findlater, council candidate

The current deployment of staff (excluding firefighters) are working in five locations, it is inefficient and costly to taxpayers. That being said the city can function and provide services to residents at an optimum level for now as office space has been leased for five years, however council should continue to build capital reserves at $700K annually and look for partnership opportunities for a future city hall sometime in the next decade.

Rusty Ensign, council candidate

We need a new city hall desperately. A new building will retain and attract good staff. Good staff save or make you money. We already own property at Elliot Road and Dobbin Road. We are running out of office space.

A plan must be completed for the entire 10 acre future city works yard on Bartley Road and Stevens Road. A modest shop and office building can be built within the current budget. This will address staffing needs. Our five year lease for office space costs $500,000. Money that could be going towards City hall. Built in the Town Centre area, on city owned land, would contribute to a vibrant downtown. Design and tender a 24,000 square foot building for today’s needs only, expandable to a 36,000 square foot building for the future.

We now have a $41 million grant for the $49 million Water Treatment Plant. This will be built within two years. We don’t need a civic centre. Every years budget we are contributing $780,000 for a City Hall Reserve Fund. The fund will be $3.2 million next year, close to $5 million in two years. It will take that long to package a deal that is palatable to the public.

We need a modest building to suit today’s needs. With water resolved, increased reserves and a smaller, cheaper building on our land, no public-private-partnerships or civic centre the $780,000 could make payments without a tax increase and possibly a tax decrease.

Joe Gluska, council candidate

Right now there are issues with a higher priority, such as clean water for all. Once this and others have been taken care of we can look at a city hall. At present residents have said no to the city hall project.

Jayson Zilkie, council candidate

I believe West Kelowna does need a new stand alone city hall. The current City Hall is at capacity, making for fragmented working conditions and some staff members working from different locations. There are also not enough meeting rooms to properly conduct business.

I would like to see two things happen before moving forward—multiple proposals in different locations and significant public input and engagement.

I don’t think our residents should have to sacrifice a more important project like sidewalks in order to get a new City Hall. I also do recognize the challenging working conditions that many City workers are currently facing. We do need to solve the issue and find a new home for City Hall, but that doesn’t mean it has to be done immediately.

Winston Wammer, council candidate

In my conversations with citizens of West Kelowna the need for a city hall is not an outstanding priority.

However there is an understanding that there may be a need for one in the not too distant future.

The first question that comes to mind is “What kind of facility should our city hall be? Will it be the center of the community with facilities such as a teen center, a senior center, EMS services, Interior Heath facility, conference rooms, etc.? obviously it would house the council and staff of West Kelowna. I see it as being the heart of our city.

Making it happen will require careful planning for location, cost, and time required for its completion.

If going ahead with this project happens relatively soon there will be a need for financing. We will need taxpayer approval to borrow the required funds.

It would be wise, in my opinion to explore ways to generate revenue from this facility so as to reduce the cost to the taxpayer.

Jason Friesen, council candidate

While I do believe that West Kelowna does need a new city hall, I do not believe that it would need to be a stand-alone building.

I firmly believe that a building that would accommodate city hall as well as other businesses, services, amenities, etc. would be prudent given the financial constraints that the city is working under.

It would be great to amalgamate different services such as a performing arts centre/theatre, the library, possibly some of the Interior Heath Authority services and/or administration staff. As a potential mixed-use building, I envision that it becomes part of a larger destination and located in the downtown area to be the anchor for future revitalization. I would like to see if we would be able to attract some private investment and/or a public-private-partnerships venture that would reduce strain that a new structure, wholly city owned, would put on the taxpayers.

Jerome Chung, council candidate

I believe every city big or small has a city hall within its own property. It indicates the strength of the city, such as, a province or a country has its own parliamentary house, land and building. Besides, it also integrates all the different city departments in one building complex which can speed up a lot of processes in terms of public applications and/or commercial development activities. It’s common sense to determine which is more costly, leasing or owning, for the city’s occupancy costs in the next five to 10 years or even stretching to many decades to come.

As mentioned before, our city hall’s project had a budget and a building plan in place four years ago but was voted down by a referendum. If you had own a property four years ago, you would have seen a significant increase in property value over the last four years. To address the question, “How would I see to it to make this happen?”. Simply put, I would review the building plan(s) again and work closely with the new council members and the city planners in regards to budget(s) and to produce a solid plan to implement the building of our new city hall of West Kelowna. There was a quote, “In our most challenging times, we must remain focused to see our next opportunity to succeed with skill and hard work.” This is what I will do.

Gord Milsom, mayoral candidate

West Kelowna does need a new building to house city administrative offices under one roof. Due to the lack of space at the current facility, which should be returned to our residents as a community hall, city staff are working out of different locations. The current arrangements do not contribute to a smooth running operation. In addition, leasing additional office space in the Lakeview Village Centre is costing our taxpayers $63,284 per year.

We need a new city hall which will be functional and which the citizens of West Kelowna will be proud of. Through public consultation, we can hear from our residents as to how do they envision a new city hall to be. For example, should a new city hall include other community amenities, such as a new home for our museum or a cultural centre?

The process of planning for a new city hall can be a community spirit building exercise. We should take ample to time to consider the building of a new city hall. In the meantime, funds can continue to be set aside each year into a reserve account, so that when the time comes, the new building will be affordable.

Mary Mandarino, mayoral candidate

No, we do not need a stand-alone City Hall.

In 2008 the Province of British Columbia gifted the City of West Kelowna 11 acres on Bartley Road and Stevens Road.

This site can accommodate a Central Fire and Emergency Command Centre, a Police Building, Museum, Civic Amphitheatre, a new City Hall and City Maintenance Facility and Works Yard .

Increasing works yard space by 44 per cent. City Council has spent $300,000 in Consulting Fees on this site.

For 10 years the works crew; responsible for our water, sewer and roads; Parks Department and Engineering Department have had inadequate space.

On March 2017, Council proposed a 2020 start date for the city yards. This is an unacceptable delay for the development of a parcel of land that was gifted to our municipality. Zoning of this parcel of land includes gravel extraction.

Mining the gravel would bring revenue to our Municipality, thus contributing to the building costs.

A temporary structure could be placed on site providing adequate space for our Works Crew; Parks, and Engineering Departments leaving adequate time and space for future development of this site.

Rick de Jong, council candidate

Although the City of West Kelowna needs a new city hall, should this be our top priority? The city recently entered in to a five year rental agreement for much needed office space. There are other very significant projects that need to get done such as the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant, a new primary fire hall, a public works yard. These are very significant projects that are getting staff attention and will require substantial dollars to complete. At this point in time, I do not see the building of a new city hall as our top priority.

Stephen Johnston, council candidate

It would be naive to say we don’t need a city hall at some point in the near future. We currently have over crowded offices, a poorly situated city hall, old portables and leased space to house fractured staff. It costs almost $64000 per year to provide offices to a handful of staff at the Lakeview Village Shopping Centre, simply because there wasn’t enough room for them at city hall. I feel like a major missing component in the City Hall Referendum was clear communication and transparency. Residents want to know what is happening in their community and in today’s digital age we have a whole host of communication tools at our disposal. The city and council need to do a better job at communicating in general. All that said I believe we have more pressing issues like water, basic infrastructure and safety that need to take priority at this time.

Bryden Winsby, council candidate

A City Hall worthy of the name must continue to be a council priority. The present location is overcrowded, resulting in a poor working environment and forcing us to lease additional space. It must be returned to its original purpose, a community hall.

Finding a suitable site is the first step, and this poses a considerable challenge, be it in Westbank Centre or elsewhere. The site search will not get easier, as the amount of available land is quite limited. I do not support the notion of using property we acquired off Bartley Road. We have earmarked that site for use as a municipal works yard and firefighter training facility. I don’t think a location in an industrial park adjacent to huge gravel extraction operations is appropriate.

We must provide a facility that will be functional and aesthetically pleasing for decades to come. I’m tired of this and previous councils being accused of wanting to build a palatial edifice for their own aggrandizement. It’s just not so.

As for the capital projects priority pole, this one ranks below the new water treatment plant and other infrastructure needs.

We have established reserves for returning the Mount Boucherie community hall to its former state and helping fund the new City Hall. Ultimately, the project probably will involve borrowing money and be put to referendum. I for one will not support use of the alternate approval process.

Philip Akins, council candidate

I think it will be an exciting moment when we build a City Hall in West Kelowna. However, making this a priority in the next four years is neither part of my election platform nor a key issue with the residents I have spoken with during this campaign.

We do not need a City Hall to feel proud of our community, to function effectively as a municipal government, to attract new businesses, plan for the future, or invest in the infrastructure, services and amenities we wish to see in our community.

I agree that a solution to the current situation for city staff is needed, and that one solution would be a completely new City Hall integrated into a Civic Centre with a variety of public services (e.g., library) and commercial amenities. In contrast to upgrading the existing site and/or spreading staff across several different sites, as they are now, this would contribute to our long-term vision for a revitalized downtown (assuming we decided to situate the Civic Centre there) and return the existing site to its original use as a community centre – both attractive benefits.

While this is not a project I am championing, therefore, and I do not think it should be a major focus for our incoming Council, I would welcome good proposals for moving such a project forward in the medium term.

Carol Zanon, council candidate

Yes, West Kelowna does need a new city hall, but not in the immediate future. It is, in fact, already in the capital plan for 2027, nine years from now. I must respect the voters’ decision not to borrow funds for the construction of a new city hall at this time. That is democracy.

We now have a five year lease on office space in Lakeview Heights which has relieved some of the urgency to house our staff. As a consequence, however, we have additional costs and inefficiencies for rent and for leasehold improvements, funds that would have been used for our own facility.

Gordon Wiebe, council candidate

West Kelowna does not need a stand-alone city hall.

Citizens rejected the proposed City Hall by a narrow margin in the referendum held two years ago. I served on the “yes” committee and hoped to see the proposal move forward. However, voters rejected it and the voice of the people is never wrong.

I would like to see staff and council explore a “virtual” city hall option like the City of Lloydminster. Avoiding a traditional bricks and mortar city hall could save tax payers millions while making city services more streamlined and accessible to everyone.

Should council wish to re-visit a city hall someday, I think any proposed complex will need to be multifaceted and more of a highly functional community centre.

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