The Vancouver Island Regional Library’s ambitious $6-million plan to build a new library in Sooke has been delayed due to health and safety issues at other Island branches.
Library renovation projects at the Sayward, Tahsis and Port McNeill branches centering around asbestos exposure has brought all other projects to a stop.
“We are obliged to address these issues immediately,” said Rosemary Bonanno, VIRL’s executive director.
“While we are limited by human capacity, staff are striving to balance and respond to the pent-up demand of VIRL’s various facilities needs. Sooke remains the top priority in the [consolidated facilities master plan] and we are committed to building a state-of-the-art facility for Sooke as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
In March, VIRL announced plans to build a new 10,000 square-foot library in Sooke at 671 Wadams Way. The library was scheduled to be completed by December 2018.
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Sooke residents will not go without library services, said Sooke Coun. Kerrie Reay, a member of the library board.
VIRL has negotiated an extension to the lease of the current Sooke branch on Anna Marie Road that continues through December 2019. Library staff are also working with the architects on various aspects of the project, including adjacencies and the building program.
VIRL goal is to have shovels in the ground by mid-2018. The new library would open in approximately a year’s time – tentatively, the spring of 2019.
The work stoppage doesn’t just affect Sooke, but any new builds and renovations within the library system. New libraries are also planned for Chemainus and North Saanich.
“It’s very disappointing,” Reay said.
“If another building is found with asbestos, Sooke could be delayed again.”
But at last week’s library meeting in Nanaimo, Reay suggested the library board hire an additional person to help with speeding the process along.
“The rest of VIRL can’t come to a standstill while you remediate these buildings from exposure to asbestos. The business has to continue,” she said.