City of Victoria buildings in ‘desperate need’ of upgrades

City to release asset inventory on Monday at special meeting

It’s no surprise Victoria’s only public pool needs an expensive retrofit, but a report to be released Monday will show for the first time the number of city owned buildings in desperate need of upgrade.

The City of Victoria’s asset management strategy is being completed and made public in the run-up to public consultation about what to do with Crystal Pool, a 42-year-old facility at the corner of Quadra and Queens streets.

“It took a little pushing because the promise of that report has been around for awhile,” said Derry McDonell, spokesman for Open Victoria, a citizen group advocating for greater transparency at city hall.

Fire Hall No. 1 is one public building known to be in need of seismic upgrading. A 2011 consultant’s report estimated Victoria needs to spend between $5 million for a basic retrofit to $16 million for a complete rebuild on the half-century-old facility.

But the public hasn’t seen a comprehensive inventory of what buildings need the most money, something McDonell and his colleagues hope to see next week as a discussion around Crystal Pool begins.

“A simple condition report is one thing, but we really need to see a prioritized list,” he said. “It would be an awful thing to have Victoria as the only municipality to have no public recreation facility or swimming pool. That said, building another single-purpose facility like Crystal isn’t in the cards. Some creative thinking needs to be done on it,” he said.

A consultant’s report from June revealed Crystal Pool has approximately 4,750 regular users, and 250,000 annual visits. The facility operates at a loss of $1.2 million per year, which includes $160,000 in energy costs. It is also the highest greenhouse gas-producing facility in the city.

While a direct comparison is difficult, the Victoria YMCA/YWCA, a multi-purpose facility, has about 7,600 members, while 510,000 members went through its gates in 2012, said Mark Dodd, general manager.

“Some members may go through more than once in a day, but taking those out we are currently, for September 2013, averaging about 1,400 (members) per day,” he said.

A schedule for public consultation on Crystal Pool is expected to be announced sometime this fall.