Bayside school asks Central Saanich to waive building permit fees

Central Saanich argues the province should be asking for building permit fee waiver.

Bayside school Parents Advisory Council President Sandra Arthur reacts as the province announces funds for a roof replacement project in mid-May. Costs for the work have already gone up.

Bayside Middle School is still in need of financial help with replacing its leaky roof.

A planned replacement project will cost more than $5 million and the permits to do the work are estimated at costing the school district more than $50,000. Brad Shuya from Bradley Shuya Architect Inc. is working on the project and represents School District 63 (Saanich).

He said with the school district having already submitted a deposit of close to $13,000, the district is now asking the municipality to reduce or waive the balance of the building permit fees.

“Because of the nature of this project, it’s a roof replacement, but it’s also quite a bit more than that,” Shuya epxlained. “It’s leaky building syndrome. We’ve got envelope issues, skylights that have failed, windows that are failing so it’s much more than just a re-roof project.”

He added despite the district coming up with close to $1 million of their own from the sale of the former McTavish Road School and the province contributing the rest, bids have come in over budget. Shuya said costs are pushing closer to $6 million. He said they’d like to award the contract and are in the midst of negotiating with the contractors. He added, however, the school district may have to cut out at least half a million dollars from the work — meaning they can’t roof certain parts of the building, primarily the main entrance canopy system.

“The School District doesn’t have extra funds. It’s not just a board of education issue, the Ministry of Education only allocated a certain percentage of funding for the project.”

Shuya said they hope to get it started immediately and have already mobilized construction crews on site and are starting this summer. The work, he said, is to be complete by next August, completed in stages so as not to disrupt classes.

The current building permit bylaw, according to Central Saanich staff, doesn’t give council the option of waiving the fees. If they did wish to support the request, they could go through a process to amend the bylaw to allow for certain types of building permits to be charged a lesser fee or not at all.

Councillor Zeb King said his heart goes out to the school board for their tough position and posed the question, ‘are we investing in our schools?’

“This is a public facility and who does it belong to is another question that comes to mind. Does it belong to the school? Well not entirely. Does it belong to the school district? Not entirely. It really belongs to us. It belongs to the province, and it’s remarkable that we’re seeing something in such bad condition deteriorating and people are scrambling for money to fix something that should be important to a municipality…”

“This request is entirely understandable from the perspective of the school board which is unable to raise tax money and is being starved of adequate funds from the province. It is the province which is offloading this cost to the municipality in this case,” he added.

King said he believes the province is getting the school board to do the dirty work of seeking to waive provincial money that should go to the municipal taxpayers for municipal services.

“The real reason that we felt this could be a viable alternative is that the school isn’t like a new building or a standard construction project where the municipal inspection department would be on site a lot and monitoring the work,” said Shuya in response. “This is a different type of construction project. It’s still expensive of course, but its roof and envelope, so there’s consultants on board to assume those liabilities and responsibilities throughout the course of construction.”

Coun. Alicia Holman said she feels strongly as a local government, they have to focus their attentions on the services that are expected at the local level from their community.

“I feel very strongly that this is a provincial issue and it’s a sad state I think, when not only has a facility really gone into disrepair, needing these repairs for a considerable length of time but adequate funding to replace it at this point is coming up short,” she said. “I can’t support a local government contribution to this, I think it truly falls within the realm of the provincial responsibilities and feel quite strongly that it should be taken care of at that level.”

The municipality will seek a meeting with the Minister of Education at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in the fall.

“I find that this situation is shocking and really needs to be brought to the attention directly to the minister of education where this specific issue has come to the District of Central Saanich and we need to ask the minister — is this really how you intent to fund schools?’” Holman stated.

Mayor Ryan Windsor said he thinks a review of the bylaw could be an option if they want public schools in the district paying permit fees as a standard practice.

“I think the timing of this is unfortunate because we have a letter dated June 15 and a very tight deadline which puts us under the gun. It doesn’t allow us for a full thorough review of all the implications and allow the public to weigh in on wether or not it truly is their mind to have schools pay permit fees.”