No budget pre-approvals for District of Kitimat properties assessments

Just over half a million dollars was waiting to be spent on a building assessment, but a split council couldn't decide if it was worth it.

Just over half a million dollars is waiting to be spent on a building assessment study for the District of Kitimat’s $100 million worth of properties.

That money will have to wait though. District of Kitimat staff sought pre-approval from the 2015 budget to spent $575,000 from the Capital Building Reserve on a building assessment, which would have looked at the maintenance needs for Kitimat’s public buildings and perhaps answered other questions such as if it would be feasible to develop a new city hall, and how far in the future that could happen.

The question divided the council, and with a tie-breaking vote not available due to Mary Murphy’s absence from the January 19 meeting, the vote went 3-3, with Edwin Empinado, Larry Walker and Mario Feldhoff against spending the money, while councillors Rob Goffinet, Claire Rattée and Mayor Phil Germuth in favour.

The even split negates — or in other words defeats — the motion.

That leaves the spending to come up in the usual process of establishing the budget this year, but could be too late to get any substantial work done on it this year.

Feldhoff said he was against the hefty price tag for the study, and questioned its need, as well as the need to pre-approve it at that meeting, rather than wait to see the entire 2015 budget, and this assessment’s place within it.

Fire Chief Trent Bossence who has been heading up the building assessment process for the District said that to get the project done before the fall would require getting requests for proposals done now and start the bidding process for the contractor who would eventually conduct the professional study.

The report to council noted that the assessment should be completed in the summer before any sales or renovations of municipal buildings.

Some councillors remained on polar opposites of the debate, Rattee for instance in total disagreement.

For Rattée, she preferred to see the work done now. She believes a lot of District buildings need work and saw value in getting a study done now on them.

Larry Walker sided with Feldhoff in the matter, saying he’d prefer to put the money straight in to “brick and morter” improvements rather than studies, which he believed would end with council “being told things we already know.”

Back to the opposite end of the table, Rob Goffinet countered that the “anecdotal” understanding of buildings needs in Kitimat is not an objective way to look at building’s needs.

Germuth also added that even if there are no final investment decisions made on LNG projects in Kitimat, local buildings will still need to be replaced regardless, and this study will help the council plan for that work.