Going ahead with a $430,000 office renovation without first studying other options could generate a “ready-made election controversy,” one local politician fears.
The board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen heard Thursday from an architect who was hired to draw up a preliminary design and budget for a renovation at the organization’s 34-year-old headquarters on Martin Street in downtown Penticton.
Chris Allen said the 1,000-square-metre building could be completely redesigned to create 30 per cent more office space and address staff complaints about their work environment for much less than the $3.8 million he estimated a new building would cost.
He also pointed out the property is currently assessed at $1.8 million, so it’s unlikely selling it would raise enough money to fully cover the cost of rebuilding elsewhere. Plus, the current building is still in relatively good shape from a mechanical perspective.
“If there’s a constant rejuvenation of the building and if the population continues to grow at the rate it’s growing, then there’s no reason why the building couldn’t be used for another 30 years very easily,” Allen said.
Nonetheless, Tom Siddon would like to explore other options before committing to the renovation.
“It seems we’ve gone down the road quite a long ways to commission this work … on the premise this is the best option,” said the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden.
He encouraged colleagues to at least commission a full appraisal of the building’s value, request proposals from the private sector and discuss with the City of Penticton the potential for sharing a home before committing to redoing the current RDOS headquarters.
“If I wanted a ready-made election controversy, whether it’s $400,000 or $4 million, you could get a lot of people really upset with why we would do this at this point in time when there may be other optional properties available,” Siddon said.
Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino, also an RDOS director, argued it makes better sense to stay put in a building that still has life left in it.
“You don’t want to ever let this building go,” she said, adding the comfort of RDOS staff should be the board’s priority.
RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell said Allen’s work has so far cost $13,000 and was recommended by a staff committee struck to investigate and recommend improvements for the building.
Allen said he conducted a survey of 36 staffers — about half the total who work there — and approximately 50 per cent were not satisfied with the fresh air, light, privacy, noise and temperature in the building.
His preliminary redesign calls for a new single desk at the public entrance to make it easier for visitors to obtain help, plus moving around desks and offices at the rear of the building to allow in more natural light. Other suggested improvements include energy efficiency upgrades, landscaping, plus repair of a settlement problem under one corner of the building.
The board voted 16-2 to spend up to $56,000 from a reserve fund to pay for a more detailed structural report and design drawings, with Siddon and Cawston Director George Bush opposed.