Report finds Saanich public buildings in need of replacement

Of three facilities in need of attention, the Park and Public Works Yard is the highest priority

A draft report into the state of public facilities says three major buildings housing protective services and public works warrant replacement in warning of services disruptions in case of emergencies.

This trio of facilities consists of the Parks and Public Works Yards, Fire Hall No. 2 on Elk Road and parts of the Public Safety Building housing the Saanich Police Department. “Of these facilities, the Parks and Public Works Yard is the highest priority,” it reads.

Titled the Strategic Facilities Master Plan, the report evaluates Saanich’s major facilities and offers a template for the next 20 years and beyond.

Harley Machielse, Saanich’s director of engineering, said in an accompanying memo to council that Saanich’s critical facilities “are clearly facing challenges and without capital investment over the next 20 years could potentially see service delivery critically impacted.”

The public works yards appear to be a particular concern.

Located in the 1000 block of McKenzie Avenue, the facility “is the hub of the vast infrastructure network” from which Saanich co-ordinates “essential” services including the provision of safe and clean water, management of the street grid, management of parks and open spaces, co-ordination of garbage pickup and disposal, maintenance of the municipal fleet and management of the storm water and sewer system.

While staff have worked out of the facility for almost 60 years, it has “repeatedly demonstrated shortcomings and potential risks” during the past 20 years.

They include among others building code violations including the absence of fire sprinklers. A fire at the facility would be “catastrophic,” the report reads. The facility also has inadequate communications and information technology, and vermin pose “increased health risks” to both buildings and equipment.

“Given both the magnitude of deficiencies and the estimated repair costs for existing facilities, continued investment into these structures is not recommended,” it reads. “Instead, redevelopment should be considered.”

These recommendations also apply to Fire Hall 2. “More than any other fire hall, Fire Hall [No.2] experiences pressing needs that have a significant impact on the entire district fire services operation,” it reads. Its current footprint of 353 square-metres “would require a significant expansion” to accommodate four additional staff and their equipment.

“The business case to modify and renovate the present building is poor, given the building layout on the lot and other current deficiencies (conformance to standards, staff living quarters and training facility expansion needs),” it reads.

A new facility would be “feasible” on this site and construction would not impact operational use of the facility, it reads.

Saanich police facilities at 760 Vernon Ave. also leave much to be desired. “Of greatest concern is the very low seismic capacity [16 per cent] of the headquarters area where operational first responders, critical equipment, senior staff and the office of chief constable are accommodated,” it reads, in warning of potential service interruptions. “The risk to service delivery is high due to the current low seismic capacity.”

Seismic capacity refers to the maximum inelastic load that a structure can withstand before collapse occurs, and building codes concerning seismic performance have changed dramatically, especially in the last 15 years. “In terms of building standards conformance, the current building code requires new facility construction at 150 [per cent] of the building code’s seismic capacity,” it reads.

The report – quoting a consultant – said the “numerous deficiencies at 760 Vernon create an unnecessary level of risk which should not be tolerated.”

Practically, they mean the facility almost needs to double in size, along with other improvements that reflect current practices. “Most notable are the areas of evidence storage (located in the condemned firearms range which has not been replaced), accused holding, police vehicle storage, training and general building security, all of which require attention to meet the needs of today, and beyond,” it reads.

The report – which council received this week – stresses the importance of these facilities.

“In almost any emergency, one or all three divisions of police (patrol), fire (suppression) and public works (road and underground crews) are likely to be called upon,” it said. “In these circumstances, the protection and safeguarding of life and public safety is the highest priority.”

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