Costs loom as Saanich considers future of public works yard

Current conditions of the facility pose a risk to service delivery, according to a draft report

The eventual fate of Saanich’s parks and public works yard dominated as council received a draft report into the state of major municipal facilities.

The report places the McKenzie Avenue facility at the very top of the priority list in stating that the facility “warrants replacement.”

Current conditions of the facility pose a risk to service delivery, the report reads. Identified “ inadequate safety and operational deficiencies” include among others the absence of fire-suppressing sprinklers and buildings that meet current building and seismic codes.

Warning against a culture of complacency, the report predicts serious consequences, should the status quo prevail. “For example, a fire at the Public Works building would be catastrophic,” it reads.

But if the report is clear about the concerns that currently surround that this critical piece of municipal infrastructure, it does not prescribe any specific replacement measures for the facility. Nor does it spell out any future costs, likely to be significant though.

Harley Machielse, Saanich’s director of engineering, said specific planning will not begin until after Saanich council has endorsed the draft plan following public input now underway.

“Should it [the plan] be adopted in the New Year, and the public works yard is our number one priority, further discussions will happen on that yard,” he said.

One key question is whether the facility should remain at its current location against the availability of suitable alternatives, and future uses for the existing location, should the facility move.

“This particular land is very, very, very expensive, and it could be developed for high density…if there is any value for it,” said Saanich resident Haji Charania in raising this question.

Machielse said that is one of several questions staff will have to consider.

“Certainly moving it [the public works yard] to another location presents some challenges, given the size of the facility, the strategic location of it, and the services delivered out of it,” he said.

Coun. Colin Plant said he would like see more information about costs as the process moves forward, because costs are likely going to be significant. He also expressed concern about the environmental state of the facility. According to the report, staff have been working at and out of the site for almost 60 years. “I’m scared and terrified [about] what is under the ground,” said Plant. “The amount of remediation that is going to be required there is going to be problematic.”

Plant’s colleagues echoed these comments. Coun. Vicki Sanders said the area on which the facility currently stands used to be a peat bog. “It’s going to be a big project for future councils to deal with,” she said.

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