North Saanich to rebuild municipal hall

Plans include using innovative Tesla battery for back up power

North Saanich building inspectors will be able to sleep a little better, after council approved a $2.6 million fix to the municipal hall.

The current building suffers from a number of structural issues, says Mayor Alice Finall.

“Our building inspectors have been lying awake at night,” Finall said, adding that the state of the building is no laughing matter.

“In the back of the council chambers there is some crumbling going on.”

The mayor said public reaction has so far been positive.

In fact, there has been considerable interest in the news that the project includes an innovative Tesla battery to power emergency operations.

“I think we might be the first (mun icipal hall to use the technology),” she said.

Council asked staff to include green initiatives and the battery  came out of their research.

The Tesla battery will power the emergency centre and, to some degree, the main hall during the day.

“If we have excess power, we can actually sell it back to the grid.”

The project is being paid for by reserve funds and will not affect taxes.

The reserve balance in North Saanich is currently $14,741, 255.

According to a statement from the municipality, the need for the reconstruction is due to a number of factors including:

• Structural problems such as stress fractures in the masonry and destabilized wood frame from significant water damage

• Inadequate seismic standard in parts of the building

• Lead in the drinking water due to soldered joints that are leaching, and asbestos in the flooring and insulation in the brickwork

• Poor ventilation systems impacting work areas, such as inability to provide sufficient heat in colder seasons, and overheating during the summer.

The municipality said the seismic upgrades needed are critical for the safety of staff and visitors in the buildings.

“When an earthquake hits, it’s the municipality’s job to support the community. Our centre of emergency operations will now be at municipal hall in a post-disaster constructed building,” said the statement. “From a convenience perspective, the new design of the entry will feature a single service centre providing service improvements from all departments.”

In addition to “a number of energy efficient and green aspects with the project,” the municipality said the project will use a combination of “Solar Photovoltaic Panels and a battery bank to power the emergency operations centre and the municipal hall instead of a conventional diesel generator for back up electricity.”

Over the life span of the system, this will be a less costly option than the generator.

“We have been aware of the deteriorating conditions in the municipal hall for some time,” Finall said in the statement sent out by the municipality.

“We have initiated studies to look at our options to deal with the problems and have shared this information with our residents. We are able to undertake this project using reserve funds without any tax increase or borrowing because we save money in our reserve fund as part of sustainable financial planning for facility management. The design of the new building is functional, practical and attractive. It will be a very positive addition to the municipality.”

The project will be done in several phases to minimize disruption to service.