By Barb McKay
The cost of repairs to the Municipal Administration Centre (MAC) building has some councillors wondering if it’s time the municipality looked for a new location.
Council learned during its meeting last Wednesday that necessary repairs and renovations to the municipal building could cost as much as $1.8 million. Larry Walton, of NA Engineering, the firm that completed an assessment of the condition of the building, presented cost estimates for several upgrades.
The municipality purchased the building, on Concession 5, 12 years ago for $1.65 million, including taxes and land transfer fees. At that time, the municipality completed extensive interior renovations. The purchase was a controversial one; a public meeting held in February 2001 in Underwood saw the council of the day divided. Some members thought it would be better to move into the former Do-It Centre at Highway 21 and
Now 22 years old, many of the building’s components are beginning to deteriorate. The HVAC (heating and cooling) system needs to be either upgraded or replaced; the wood siding is rotting; and the roof needs repairs.
The potentially most costly item on the list, according to NA Engineering estimates, will be the HVAC system, which uses ground source heat pumps. Approximately $33,000 has been spent in the past two years to maintain the system. Replacing the system could cost anywhere from $385,000 to $640,000, depending on the type of system that is installed. Another costly item will be the replacement of the siding on the 25,000-square-foot building. Walton provided council with several options, including vinyl, metal, aluminum composite and wood siding. The price varies widely; from $115,000 for commercial-grade vinyl siding to $450,000 for high quality aluminum composite.
Other recommended repairs and upgrades include roof and balcony repairs at $125,000; eavetroughes and snow guards at $52,000; glazing at $20,000; lobby reconfigurations estimated at $25,000; and new flooring at up to $65,000. An electrical allowance of $20,000 is also suggested.
“One of the things you have to consider is how long you will occupy the building,” Walton said. “What you choose to repair if you stay five to 10 years would be different than repairs you would do if you plan to stay 20 to 30 years.”
Councillor Ron Coristine asked about the building’s maintenance program. Michele Barr, building and planning director for the municipality, said she would look into it and get back to him.
Several councillors indicated that they would like to know what the costs are to operate the MAC building and the revenue amount received from second floor rentals.
“There is no way I’m going to support this without that information,” said councillor Randy Roppel. “Maybe it’s time for council to look at re-location.”
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie agreed that more information is needed.
“I would like to see figures for operating,” she said. “(The building) is too big for our needs.”
She added that the repairs costs will likely end up being more than the estimates and the municipality is already committed to costly projects in 2014, including the construction of the leachate treatment facility at the waste management centre and interior renovations to the Arts Centre.
Councillor Mike Leggett said he would like to see a real estate assessment for the MAC building to see if it is even worth investing in. He said the municipality needs to have a long-term plan for where it is going to operate before it goes ahead with upgrades.
“Let’s find out if this is the best spot for us of if there is somewhere else we should be,” he said.
Councillor Ken Craig said moving the municipal building would likely prove to be more expensive.
“The prospect of building new goes far beyond the numbers suggested here.”
As well as repairs and upgrades, NA Engineering recommended that the municipality install a backup generator in the MAC, at a cost of approximately $375,000.
“It has been in and out of the budget for the past few (council) terms,” Barr said, “but it has been identified as a need.”
Walton said since the MAC is a public building, it could be required to operate in an emergency situation, such as storm.
“When a generator is needed, people can’t get to the building anyway,” mayor Larry Kraemer noted.
Council decided to accept the report and consider the list of recommended repairs during 2014 budget discussions.
“It’s a good exercise to understand the cost of running a building,” Kraemer said.