Construction set to start on new North Saanich hall

Doors to the North Saanich municipal hall will remain open and it will be business as usual when construction starts later this month.

Colette Miller

Doors to the District of North Saanich municipal hall will remain open and it will be business as usual when construction starts later this month.

Members of municipal council and representatives of Verity Construction Ltd. officially broke ground Monday, on the project to revamp and replace a significant amount of the existing district hall. Mayor Alice Finall says she’s happy that the council has moved so quickly to get the work started.

Verity, with design work from Musgrave Architects and Victoria Design Group will begin the first phase of the project this month, by renovating the west side of the existing building and adding a new wing off the south frontage of the structure. That work will also include rebuilding the exterior of the north wall, said Victoria Design Group owner Wil Peereboom. The wall has been damaged by water leakage and has long been a problem for the district.

The $.2.5 million project will then demolish the older, east portion of the building. A new council chamber, built to post-disaster standards, will be put up in its place in the second phase of construction.

Finall and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan noted the phasing of the work will mean staff will be able to continue without interruption and the public will still be able to access the municipal hall on district business.

“Phase one, the new wing, will see everybody move into it once it’s done,” said Buchan. “That won’t happen until some time in the summer or later next year.”

Peereboom said the west portion will be walled off during construction, allowing access to the existing council chamber and administrative offices. Work will be done to fix issues related to water leakage and the new wing will be built. Once crews move to the east side, he said it’s a complete rebuild, from the ground-up.

There will be some innovation in the new structure. He said the council chamber will be built to withstand an earthquake or other disaster and be able to function as a community emergency operations centre. To do so, it will be outfitted with a bank of batteries, some charged with solar power.

Finall said she’s happy with this addition, noting that if it’s successful, the battery wall being installed might be able to sell power back to the Hydro grid and perhaps even pay for itself.

The new east portion of the municipal hall will include washrooms and an improved basement with more meeting space as well as storage areas.

The second phase of the project is likely at least seven to eight months away, said Peereboom. Construction, once it starts, will last at least that long, with a break in the middle to allow staff to move over.

During that time, the council chamber will not be available. Finall said the Town of Sidney has already offered their chamber to their North Saanich counterparts. While it’s an option, she said, there’s a conflict in that both councils hold their meetings on Monday nights. Finall said she would like to maintain their Monday evening meetings for the sake of the public — and has asked staff to look into other locations to hold their meetings.

Currently, the construction company is waiting for its building permit.