A political watchdog group in Coldstream is not in favour of the district’s potential borrowing of $8.5 million for a new public works building.
In conjunction with the municipal election Saturday, Oct. 15, Coldstream voters will decide whether the district will borrow the money needed for the new building.
The anonymous Coldstream Citizens Concerns Community Chat group describes itself as a group of concerned citizens in Coldstream working to bring accountability in local governance. The group posted a write-up on the referendum to its website, titled ‘Reasons to vote NO to borrowing $8.5 million in the upcoming referendum.’
The proposed new building would be built on district property directly behind the municipal office at the site of the current, and aging, facility at the works yard on Aberdeen Road.
The Coldstream Concerns group highlighted what it sees as several red flags to the proposed project, including rushed decision making, council’s narrow split decision, the project’s overall cost and its proposed location.
“(The) motion received approval by three of the councillors and our mayor, so approval was four in favour and two against, one absent. Given the nature of the ongoing financial commitment for Coldstream taxpayers this was not a resounding vote of confidence,” the group said.
“It appears that this project was rushed through with little debate or discussion or thoughts of alternate solutions.”
Council awarded the design contract to SAHURI + Associates Architecture Inc., at a cost of $70,000 plus taxes. Their report provided a cost breakdown for council and staff to consider: $7,631,753 for the public works building, $2,354,247 for storage facilities and $934,000 to renovate the old fire hall, for a total of $10,920,000.
The district has $2.42 million in existing resources to put towards the project, and the cost of borrowing is about $526,800 per year on a 30-year term. The funding for the building would stem from a tax increase of 7.4 per cent phased in over three years — 2.5 percent in years one and two, and 2.4 per cent in year three.
The cost of construction per square foot would be $613.83.
“Contrast that to the community hall with a construction cost of $5,819,870 for an estimated 14,000 square feet, equating to $416 per square foot,” the Coldstream Concerns group says.
“One must ask, why is the cost of building a workshop/office space, cold storage, and renovating an existing building more than the cost of building the new community centre and childcare facility?”
The group also calls into question the location of the building, saying that the site “doesn’t fit in with Coldstream’s plans to develop a town centre in the future. And that was before we built a childcare facility and community hall right next door.”