View Royal fire hall funding at risk

Municipal council divided on using future casino revenues to build emergency building

A tender for View Royal’s new fire hall is going ahead amid concerns over the status of certain portions of the funding.

Complications are due to some setbacks for Eagle Creek, an intended commercial and residential development on land at the corner of Watkiss Way and Helmcken Road. One million dollars in amenity contributions from the development is earmarked for the fire hall, but delays beyond the control of the town mean it’s unknown when the money will be available.

With the approval of a referendum, the town will borrow $5.49 million for the $7.9 million project. A further $1 million is slated to come from the sale of the old fire hall.

A request for qualifications earlier in the year yielded a list of 13 contractors interested in submitting tenders. City staff is concerned if the tender is not issued soon, some of these companies may no longer be available.

 

The intention is to put out a call for tenders late this month, with the hopes of awarding the project sometime in October, at the latest.

 

Council agreed to move forward with a split contract, including a Part A which will be awarded to the lowest tender and a Part B, which establishes the terms of the agreement and can be delayed or cancelled if the money isn’t in place.

“The tender documents themselves will reinforce that if we do go to tender and the funding is not in place, we will not enter into Contract B,” said CAO Kim Anema. “At that date, we will have an opportunity to review the situation.”

If the money from Eagle Creek is not in place, there is potential to take funds from other areas, such as from a projected $786,000 of available funds from casino revenue in 2014. The rest would come from reserves and surpluses.

With the already over-budget Craigflower Bridge project and the potential for other surprise expenses, some members of council were not sold on the idea of scraping the bottom of the town’s coffers, should the amenity money not be available.

“I’m really hesitant to commit the casino (dollars). I don’t even think that should be in the picture, for that amount,” Coun. John Rogers said. “I would be very, very nervous if available funding assumes we must commit our casino.”

Coun. Heidi Rast understands the concern, but feels moving ahead with the tender will put council in a better position to make decisions.

“That’s the big unknown, what the pricing is. So if it does come back under it gives much more flexibility,” Rast said. “Let’s hope this works, we get a bit of luck, and it comes back in our favour. Until that information is provided, it will lead to a much more detailed discussion later on.”

Speaking to the possibility of the old fire hall selling for less than $1 million, Anema did not rule out the possibility of increasing taxes, in a worst case scenario, and only with the approval of council.

“If the funds aren’t available from the sale of the fire hall, the funds have to be made available otherwise,” Anema said. “I can’t commit that it will be done on the basis of existing resources, it may well end up being what we don’t really want to see happen, is some form of tax increase. But all the other alternatives will be explored first.”

 

The situation is now wait and see. If the tenders come in and the money is not in place, the project could be delayed or cancelled, or council can approve other ways to cover the cost. If the money is in place, the project would proceed as planned.

 

Eagle Creek setbacks

The Eagle Creek project is stalled after items of archeological interest were found on the property, said Coun. John Rogers, chair of the planning and development committee.

The developer, Omicron, had to go through the appropriate process to determine if the lands are a site of archeological interest.

Complicating matters is the provincial government, which recently lost a case in Oak Bay and was held liable for costs awarded to a homeowner for an assessment. As a result, the government is reassessing policies and put a freeze on archeological assessments on private property developments. Interim measures are expected to be in place by the end of this week, a ministry spokesperson said, allowing assessments to move forward.