Rot, mould at North Saanich municipal hall

District hires project manager to provide firm estimate of replacement cost.

North Saanich senior building inspector John Post shows a section of the north wall of the municipal building where water and mould have contributed to the rotting of structural wood.

Instead of continuing to patch up North Saanich’s patchwork municipal building, the District will explore the cost of replacing most of it.

Senior building inspector John Post says water leaks into the building and behind the stucco have rotted portions of the structure. Doors, window sills and flooring have been replaced in recent years, while supporting beams have been installed in places like exterior staircases to ensure safety.

It’s this piecemeal approach to maintaining what is clearly a building in need of repairs or replacement that the District hopes to end, says Mayor Alice Finall.

“We’ve known for quite a while that this is an issue,” she said.

“We received some of the details in assessment reports last year but council at the time felt it was more appropriate for the new council to address it.”

Those reports are available on the District’s website and at municipal hall.

On Feb. 2, the new council voted to have municipal staff hire a project manager. They will, said Finall, prepare plans to replace the older portions of the structure and pin down what it will cost.

Finall added the District had the building assessed, with recommended repairs needed. That cost, said Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan, was $1.3 million.

“There was money in the budget at the time for those repairs,” he said. “But council wanted to get a bigger picture for a long-term fix.”

Repairs, he noted, would only be that — repairs — with many of the same problems coming back again.

“I’ve been pressing (the District) to fix it,” said Post. We can’t leave this, it’ll become a structural issue.”

Portions of the stucco and wood were removed during the building assessment. Post showed areas where the wood has rotted, cracks have formed in both stucco and brick, and much of the north side of the building is covered in mould. Post added air testing within the building has shown the mould has not become an issue, but again, he said it’s only a matter of time.

The building’s ability the withstand a significant earthquake is also in question.

The original portion of the municipal office was built in 1973, said Buchan. The current council chambers, or centre portion of the structure, was added in 1989. A public works annex was built in the 1990s and it was connected to the rest of the building in 2006. Repairs, he added, would only bring the older part up to 1970s standards — not adequate protection against earthquakes.

The annex and 2006-era construction will remain in place under a proposed replacement plan, said Buchan. The remainder of the building would be removed and replaced with a more functional, welcoming and safe municipal hall. He said the early proposal is to build a new wing prior to demolishing the current lobby, council chamber and east wing.

Finall said there’s been no final decision to proceed with replacement — the project manager’s cost estimate and full plan must be presented to council and the community first. She added council has asked that any replacement cost be based on what the District can currently afford.

“The District of North Saanich has enough in its reserves,” she said, “so we won’t have to increase taxes or borrow.”

That is the hope, at least. Finall said she wants the cost estimate to come in sooner than later, so the municipality can make a decision.

“Our senior building inspector was clear. We need to move ahead and not ignore this.”

 

Council could be displaced

In the event of the replacement of North Saanich’s municipal council chambers and entire east wing of the District building, the politicians would have to find new digs.

Mayor Alice Finall said the possibility of having no place to hold regular council meeting has been raised. Options, she said, include renting other space, or turning to their neighbouring municipal governments and their council chambers.

Finall said they could reach an agreement to hold meetings on different nights during the construction period.

Relocation plans, Finall added, would be discussed more once a decision is made to proceed with a replacement project.