North Saanich’s new and improved municipal hall has taken a little bit longer than expected to complete, but according to the District, it’s under budget.
Finishing touches are being put to the interior of the renovated portion of the District office this week, in advance of the first official open house and public meeting, scheduled for Monday, August 21 in the new council chambers.
The building is a combination of a new south wing of staff offices and public reception area, and a renovated north and east wing, consisting of new council chambers, offices, a lift and brighter staircase into the building’s basement. The basement itself has also been revamped. Where once it housed staff offices, there is a new secure space for municipal documents and the battery bank for the building’s new solar panels. Throughout the entire rebuild, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan says it was fitted with supports to make the building disaster-resistant and able to act as North Saanich’s emergency management centre.
The project cost $2.5 million — funded out of the District’s reserve funds — and according to Buchan this week, is thus far $700 under budget.
“We’re basically done this week,” he said, “so we’re basically on budget.”
“If we’d waited another, I think, six to eight months (to start the project),” added Mayor Alice Finall, “we’d probably not been able to do it.”
Buchan said construction costs have gotten much more competitive over the last year-and-a-half, so being able to do the work at an average cost of $200 per foot. He said contractors worked with designers throughout the process to find cost savings where possible. And with increased building going on the Greater Victoria region, there were some delays. Buchan said it was supposed to be finished in May. Demand for labour and the presence of asbestos and vermiculite in the building necessitated proper disposal activities, which added to the project time.
Finall said she personally hasn’t heard much from the community about the new building, apart from when it was proposed at the start. The municipal office has also been open throughout the work, with staff remaining in their old offices while the new wing was built — then moving over as construction migrated to the north-east side of the structure.
Buchan noted the District chose the combination renovation and rebuild option after years of limping along with a rotting portion of north wall and a dated building that has been a patchwork of previous additions. To deal with the rot itself, he said it would have cost around $200,000. After reviewing their options and future needs, the District chose the rebuild option.
Outside of the municipal hall have stood a pair of large solar panels as well. Those will feed solar energy into the new batteries in the building, providing power both on a day-to-day basis and in the event of emergencies. Buchan said the batteries, once charged, will provide power to the emergency centre for one hour — with the ability to recharge at the same time. That solar power system was being hooked up and made operational this week. The panels are facing in a direction allowed by Transport Canada — to avoid impacting on the operations of the nearby Victoria International Airport.
The new space will officially open to the public at a council open house and regular meeting on Mon., Aug. 21. The open house is 3:30 to 6 p.m. that afternoon at the hall, 1620 Mills Road.